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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Renaissance construction of the "architetto doctissimo" : Bramante in the court of Pope Julius II Thomas, Frances Ellen


Donato Bramante (1 444- 1514) is conventionally represented by Renaissance writers, and twentieth century art historians alike, as the "architetto doctissimo", the "saviour" of the classical manner, and "the inventor and light of all good architecture". Yet, despite a widely promoted programme of architectural renewal under Pope Julius II (1503- 1513), a surprisingly small number of his projects were actually built, or if built, proved structurally sound. Even St. Peter's, the centrepiece of Julius II's imperialistic ambitions, remained incomplete with a few, structurally inadequate walls erected amidst the ruins of the old basilica before Bramante's death. Certainly, the recognition of Bramante as Julius II's Papal Architect was and is based upon more than his actual architectural designs or production. In order to understand the bases of Bramante's image, this study explores the discrepancies between the various discourses surrounding the architect and his production, particularly as they relate to his position as Pope Julius II's principal architect, the historical situation of Renaissance Rome, and contemporary architectural theory and practice. Re-inserting these discrepancies within the specific social and institutional framework which produced them, this thesis addresses these questions: From what specific circumstances was the image of Bramante's "genius" created, and thus created, how did it function in relation to the challenge of alternative historical viewpoints? Chapter One of the thesis focuses on a number of specific texts to illustrate the interplay of architectural theory, practice and patronage from different periods and sites within the Quattrocento. These discussions, while informed by the specific demands of their respective situations, share a humanistic emphasis on theoretical liberal arts values in their formulation of an intellectual architect type (in difference to the architect of contemporary practice) whose elevated status is seen to reinforce the social position of the patron. Chapter Two deals with the historical documentation of Bramante's image through biographies, records and memorials, including foundation medals issued by the papacy as well as his pamphlet of sonnets on the extant monuments of Ancient Rome, the Antiauarie Prosoetiche Romans In accordance with the general formulation of the ideal architect, the qualities consistently emphasized in Bramante's construction are his knowledge of classical architecture and his skills in poetry, painting and music. Thus he is described in direct opposition to contemporary building practice, which is represented in the literature by his contemporary, Giuliano da Sangallo, whose mechanical arts training and practice serve as a foil to Bramante's characterization as the historical realization of a type previously restricted to theory. Chapter Three considers Bramante's image within the context of the alternative, contemporary viewpoints which it challenges. These historical discrepancies do not serve to reveal the 'truth' behind a false construction, but signal an alternative position, broadly located in traditional architectural conventions, with which the representation of Bramante's image would originally have been engaged. It is through the active dialogue between these opposing viewpoints and representations, the interests of the papacy and Renaissance Rome, that the complexities and workings of Bramante's image can be understood. Although Julius II relinquished his traditional, symbolic role as the designer of his architectural projects to Bramante, he ultimately achieved greater recognition for himself and the papacy through the promoted image of his learned architect and his grand projects. In this construction, the "great artist" was recognized as an important attribute of the "great patron". This situation, however, did not signal the actual rise in social status of artists often attributed to the Renaissance, but rather its representation ; for ultimately, the patron, in practice if not in name, remained the "architect" of both his client and his projects.

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