People often try to imitate a finished product if it has become popular. When this is done after several years it is considered a revival. Usually the artist or patron has a purpose such as modeling after a powerful culture or religious significance. They may slightly change or mix other styles to make the best of past and present. In Florence Italy there stands a baptistery. It resides west of the Florence Cathedral, which was modeled after the baptistery.
The Cathedral began in 1296 by Arnolfo di Cambio. Although the two resemble each other, they are considered to be from two different styles. The Baptistery of S. Giovanni is categorized as Romanesque while the cathedral is considered Gothic.
The exterior of the cathedral doesn’t appear to be Gothic, it’s the interior that is. The baptistery possesses an octagonal structure with an extension to the west. This extension was originally an apse. There are doors to the north, south, and east sides. All of the doors are decorated with beautiful sculptures. The first doors were done by Andrea Pisano and set the standards for the next to come.Order now
The second set, the first done by Lorenzo Ghiberti, were originally hung on the east end, but were soon moved to the north side to make room for the final set. These final doors, by Ghiberti, have earned the name “Gates of Paradise. ”The name S. Giovanni was given to the baptistery because of the remains of Piazza S Giovanni found beneath the floor in a medieval cemetery. Historians have argued the baptistery’s date for a few hundred years and it is still completely unsure what is it.
The first recorded documentation of the baptistery’s existence was March 4th, 897. Many have come to agree that the original constructed was during the 6th and 7th centuries and much of the restoration happened around 1059. Through the years nature’s forces have taken their toll upon the San Giovanni. Several restorations have been made to the exterior and the interior since the 10th century. The most drastic change done would have to be the exterior marble.
Around 1293 the corner pilasters were reconstructed with alternating slabs of green and white marble. This technique wasn’t ever seen in the Florentine school and was assumed to have originated in Pisa. The use of alternating marbles and the arcade sills wrap around the entire building. It gives a sense flowing continuity. The arcade is also made up of stripped marble that appears to “hop” around the baptistery. At the bottom of the arch it flows down the column to the base where it disappears.
The empty panels that appear in the arcade emphasize the entire buildings repetitious scheme. The Florence baptistery is considered a revival of classical architecture. The first reason a revival may have occurred could be the fact that it rests on the foundation of an old Roman building. The citizens of Florence believed the baptistery to be a Roman temple dedicated to Mars.
The baptistery’s great resemblance of a roman building fed the rumor for a few hundred years. This could have been the beginning reason for the revival of classicism. One interesting fact is that the shape of the baptistery is like the old Roman aqueducts. These were very important in the survival of Roman cities. The aqueducts may have been symbolic for something more, but it has never been proven. The idea of a centrally planned church was also known to be used in classical style architecture.
Classical architecture was symmetrical, balanced, and harmonious, all of which are seen in the baptistery. The use of pilasters and columns resemble the classical style of the Parthenon. The columns held up the weight of much of the baptistery. These columns made the walls seem lighter.
This idea was used in early Christian architecture, but it could be seen in late Roman architecture. The pilaster capitals of the baptistery are carved with acanthus leaves. This idea of sculptured capitals comes form Roman type pilasters. The leaves appear to hang form their own weight. The edges even curl under and they seem to grow outward off of the marble. The use of the cloistered vault was also being experimented with in the late Roman era.
Cloistered vaults can be seen in the “Tomb of the Plauttii” and the “Temple of Diana” at Baia. Height was used in Roman architecture as a metaphor for power and their “height” their empire rose. The lantern is predominately from antique architecture. The baptistery has a height that is beyond practical value.
As reconstruction progressed, some of the Roman influence was lost but much of it is still apparent. The baptistery was the beginning of Roman influence in Florence. A large motivation to the revival of classical architecture was Countess Matilda of Tuscany. She was born in 1046.
Her family had the richest estate in Italy. After the death of her father and her two old siblings she obtained the entire estate at the age of 17. Her mother soon married to have allies. She was very well educated and fluent in French, Italian, German, and Latin. As she grew older, Matilda donations to local churches expressed her faith in Christianity.
Her mother’s ideas had a great effect on Matilda. She became an avid supporter of the papacy. Historians have said she possessed the ‘Roman-mindedness’ to keep the revival alive. With her help the baptistery’s style survived after the dark ages. Matilda also helped strengthen the economy of Florence.
The revival had to have some sort of reasoning behind it. The idea of classicism is derived from ancient Greeks and Romans. The use of classicism is usually symbolic of power. The higher classes were known to relate themselves with this era. They wanted to show their wealth and power through the use of a highly visual and beautiful style.
In Latin classical is classicus, which means the highest order of citizenry. Unlike polyfoil churches, like S. Vitale and S. Lorenzo that were made with brick, the baptistery was made with marble. The use of marble, like the Romans, was because it was readily available.
A local marble called Florentine macigno was used from Pisa. It was the green marble used to make the alternating colors on the exterior. Many parts of the baptistery show a revival of classicism besides the architecture. The three sets of doors have a classical style to them. The first doors done by Lorenzo Ghiberti show a great deal of classical influence. Ghiberti was an Italian sculptor, goldsmith, and architect.
Around this time merchants effected a large part of the economy. The economy was flourishing and the merchants wanted to show their wealth by having the most beautiful sculptures of this time. Most doors around this time were wooden with the sculptures applied to them. Ghiberti’s doors were solid cast of bronze. His doors show a revival in sculpture through the use of naturalistic figures.
The reason for this could be they believe it elevated them above others. The artists have recreated something that only God has the power to do. Their sculpture is the closest thing to imitating God’s creatures. Each panel is harmonious with the other.
Even though they were done over a several years the style never changed. The panels contain narrative stories of the bible and the figure’s gestures tell the story. Ghiberti used this style because it was one of his studies at the school he attended. The use of revival in Florence reflects their political and economic standings. The classical style was associated with elegance and refinement. The patrons/patronesses wanted to be represented with a style that closely resembled what they thought of themselves.
Choosing a style is just a way to boost their ego. The use of classicism lets other visitors now that this is city of wealth, sophistication, and history. BibliographyConant, Kenneth John Carolingian and Romanesque Architecture 800 to 1200Penguin Books Ltd. 1959Anthony, Edger W.
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