16th C Michelozzo Palazzo Medic Riccardi and Alberti Palazzo Rucellai Architecture

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Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Michelozzo di Bartolommeo
begun 1444 (elongated in the 17th century by
the Riccardi family) 
Form:  The key to understanding the Renaissance Palazzo is understanding the vocabulary of forms of buildings used in Classical antiquity.  In this case, if you don't remember, please review this section.

The exterior of the building is a fake or faux finish.  The stringsourses of brickwork you see on its facade covers the real suporting structure underneath.  With the exception of the arches, that were later filled in, almost none of the exterior ornamentation serves a structural purpose.  The exterior of the building is almost like a drawing. 

It is divided into three distinct levels.  Each level is defined by the level of relief of the masonry facade on the exterior.  At the top of the structure, you can see that the level of relief is actually quite low as you move to the center course it is a bit more etched deeply.  By the bottom course the rustification is quite pronounced.
Iconography:  The use of the arches refers to antiquity and is a way of giving the building some "class."  The rustification serves two purposes.  It makes the building look taller than it is by playing with the illusion of space.  It's almost like a sculptural version of atmospheric perspective.  The further the courses are from the ground, the less the detail.  The rustification of the lower courses also serves to make the structure look more fortress like.  It looks thicker and tougher and also mimics some of the Classical ruins found throughout Italy.
Michelozzo di Bartolommeo b. 1396, Florence d. 1472, Florence 
in full MICHELOZZO DI BARTOLOMMEO, MICHELOZZO also spelled MICHELOZZI, architect and sculptor, notable in the development of Florentine Renaissance architecture.
Michelozzo studied with the celebrated sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti, in whose workshop he acquired the skills of a bronze founder. After 1420 they collaborated on the "St. Matthew" for the church of Or San Michele, Florence. In 1427 Michelozzo and the sculptor Donatello established a partnership, active until 1438, to build several architectural-sculptural tombs. They also collaborated on the pulpit (designed 1428) in Prato cathedral.
Throughout his career Michelozzo was closely associated with his principal patrons, the Medicis, and he followed Cosimo de' Medici into exile at Venice in 1433. Upon Cosimo's triumphant return to power in Florence in 1434, Michelozzo's architectural career began in earnest with several important commissions. In 1436 he began the complete rebuilding of the ruined monastery of San Marco at Florence. The elegant library he built for the monastery became the model for subsequent libraries throughout 15th-century Italy. In 1444-45 he directed the similar reconstruction of the large complex of church buildings at Santissima Annunziata, also in Florence. Michelozzo also temporarily succeeded Filippo Brunelleschi as architect for the cathedral of Florence upon the latter's death in 1446.
Michelozzo produced several innovations in the design of the Florentine palazzo, or palace. The basic plan called for a blocklike structure, usually three stories high, with a central open court. On the exterior the three stories were separated by horizontal string courses, and the rustication of the stonework was different in each story. The building was capped by a bold overhanging cornice. These features are outstanding in the palazzo that Michelozzo built in Florence for Cosimo de' Medici (1444-59; now called the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi), one of the finest examples of early Renaissance architecture.
In his later years Michelozzo restored several villas for the Medicis and worked as an engineer in Ragusa (now Dubrovnik, Croatia) and on the Greek island of Chios.

Procession of the Magi in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence (1459-60)

The interior of the courtyard of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, 
Form:  The interior of the courtyard of the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi,  is designed somewhat after traditional interior courtyards of peristyle home found in Pompeii (see section in gray below).  However, a major difference is that in this case the courtyards perimeter is set atop an arcade rather than a standard perimeter of post and lintel collumns.
Here's a diagram of the building

Context:  Atrium Style House from Pompeii

Form:  The typical atrium style house of Pompeii was fronted by the shops (1).  The structure usually housed a main house and sometimes even an additional ones (7) was rented out.  The fauces (latin for throat) or vestibulum (2) was a thin passageway that led into the atrium (8) in which the an open skylight above the atrium caught fresh water.  A similar open air peristyle courtyard (9) was located further in and the bedrooms, dining room, bathrooms, kitchen and other service areas radiated out from.  A vegetable garden in addition to the the flower garden provided delicacies such as fresh fruit and staples such as vegetables.
Context:  These atrium style houses were really apartment houses and commercial districts combined into one structure.  As such, they were an incredible investment for the wealthy owner.  Not only were they self sufficient in terms of food, the rental on the shops and additional dwellings often paid for whatever loans and taxes owed on the complex.


Pompeii Peristyle Court c 79 AD
Form:  These peristyle courtyards had ornate sculpture and flower gardens surrounded by a perimeter of stylos (latin for column).  The perimeter columns held up the roof overhang under which furniture was placed.  The columns were often made of marble and often there was marble veneer on the concrete and brick wall.  The wall of the courtyard were often decorated with mosaics and or fresco. Iconography/Context:  The peristyle is almost misnamed because it is truly the atrium (latin for heart) of the house.  This is where the family gathered and in essence it was an outside living room.  Here air and light flowed through the space but the occupants would not be bothered by the noises and smells of the street.
Context:  (Who lived in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, ?)
Cossimo d' Medici
b. Sept. 27, 1389, Florence
d. Aug. 1, 1464, Careggi, near Florence
byname COSIMO THE ELDER, Italian COSIMO IL VECCHIO, Latin byname PATER PATRIAE (FATHER OF HIS COUNTRY), founder of one of the main lines of the Medici family that ruled Florence from 1434 to 1537.
The son of Giovanni di Bicci (1360-1429), Cosimo was initiated into affairs of high finance in the corridors of the Council of Constance, where he represented the Medici bank. He went on from there to manage the papacy's finances and in 1462 filled his coffers to overflowing by obtaining from Pius II the Tolfa alum mines monopoly, alum being indispensable to Florence's famed textile industry. He was certainly the wealthiest man of his time, not only in terms of bullion but also in the amount of bank and promissory notes payable to his bank in Florence and to its branches operating in all the important financial markets of Europe. Such great power alone would have been sufficient to set the oligarchy against him; his "popular" policies rendered him completely intolerable. The Albizzi, one of the other leading families, attempted a coup. In 1431 Cosimo was vacationing in Cafaggiolo when he received a summons to reply to his indictment for the capital crime "of having sought to elevate himself higher than others." He could have taken refuge in Bologna, but instead he chose to let himself be incarcerated in a small dungeon in the Palazzo Vecchio. The Albizzi soon discovered that so wealthy a man could not be assassinated so easily. The jailer was bribed to taste Cosimo's food beforehand, and the gonfalonier, assuaged by the famous gold-bearing mules, arranged to have the usual death sentence reduced to banishment. Cosimo retired to Padua and Venice, where he was received like a sovereign. Exactly one year later, a sudden and unexpected move by the Medici, in which they doctored elections, gave them back the signoria (council of government). Cosimo triumphantly reentered the city; and his enemies went into exile, never to return. The Medici principate had begun (1434).

Cosimo traditionally has been accused of destroying Florentine liberties; but these ancient liberties, more of an illusion than a reality, had already ceased to exist in the Florence of the Albizzi. Cosimo only had to perpetuate the formula of those he was evicting, in other words, to maintain the appearance of a constitutional regime. But, in order not to be taken by surprise like the Albizzi, he perfected the system. He made no changes in the law's actual administration, but in the spirit of the law he changed everything. Previously, it was the rule to fill high official positions by drawing lots. The process was now manipulated so that only the names of men who could be depended upon were drawn. The independent mood of the two municipal assemblies was neutralized by making an exceptional procedure the rule: dictatorial powers were now granted for a fixed term that was always renewed. He also made an alliance with the Sforzas of Milan, who, for gold, provided him with troops. This alliance permitted Cosimo to crush the rising opposition by a coup d'état in August 1458 and to create a Senate composed of 100 loyal supporters (the Cento, or Hundred); thus he was able to live out the last six years of his life in security.
Cosimo required undivided power in order to carry out his plans as well as to satisfy his passions, above all his passion for building. Brunelleschi completed the "marble hat" of his famous cupola at the time of Cosimo's return in 1434; in addition, he almost completed the work on S. Lorenzo and on the Sagresta Vecchia and began work on the strange rotunda of Sta. Maria degli Angeli. He drew up plans for a princely palace for Cosimo; but the latter preferred the less lofty plans of Michelozzo, although Michelozzo's Medici Palace (the modern Palazzo Medici-Riccardi) was only slightly less grandiose and provided the first break with the family's traditional stance of humility. Under the patronage of Cosimo, Michelozzo also built the convent of S. Marco, the Medici Chapel at Sta. Croce, and a chapel at S. Miniato. In addition to architects, Cosimo gathered around him all the masters of an age abounding in geniuses: the sculptors Lorenzo Ghiberti and Donatello and the painters Andrea del Castagno, Fra Angelico, and Benozzo Gozzoli. He not only assured these artists of commissions but also treated them as friends at a time when people still looked upon them as manual workers.
Cosimo also organized a methodical search for ancient manuscripts, both within Christendom and even, with Sultan Mehmed II's permission, in the East. The manuscripts picked up by his agents form the core of the incomparable library that is rather unjustly called the Laurentian (Laurenziana), after his grandson. He opened it to the public and employed copyists in order to disseminate scholarly editions compiled by, among others, the Humanists Poggio and Marsilio Ficino.

In short, he was well prepared for the singular opportunity that came his way in 1439, when he succeeded in enticing the ecumenical council from Ferrara to Florence. The Council of Florence, Cosimo's most important success in foreign relations, deluded itself into believing it had finally ended the schism with the Eastern Church. As for Cosimo, he assiduously attended the lectures delivered by the Greek scholars, and at the age of 50 he became an ardent admirer of Plato. He then re-created Plato's ancient academy in his villa of Careggi, where Marsilio Ficino became the Platonic cult's high priest. At the same time the University of Florence, with conspicuous success, resumed the teaching of Greek, which had been unknown in the West for 700 years. Thus Cosimo was one of the mainsprings of Humanism.
In 1440 Cosimo prematurely lost his brother, who had been his staunchest supporter. In 1463 he had to face the loss of his most gifted son, Giovanni, thus leaving the succession to Piero, born in 1416, who was sickly and almost constantly bedridden. The future seemed dark to the old man as he roamed through his palace, sighing, "Too big a house for such a small family." He died in Careggi in 1464, and a huge crowd accompanied his body to the tomb in S. Lorenzo. The following year, the signoria conferred upon him the deserved title of Pater Patriae (Father of His Country).
Copyright © 1994-2001 Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, Inc.

Leon Battista Alberti, Palazzo Rucellai  c. 1452-1470 
Form:  The Palazzo Rucellai trades in the change in rustication for a change in the different orders that rise up the side of the structure.  In this case, he uses the heavyest order, a flettened Doric/Tuscan style pilaster on the bottom, next a modified kind of collumn that looks alomost Ionic, and then a Corinthian level at the top.
His design is meant to mimic the order and arrangement one finds on the exterior of the Colosseum.
Also see


Palazzo Rucellai
Leonbattista Alberti 
c. 1452-1470 

Quoted from

In rich and luxurious via della Vigna Nuova, at the heart of the city's historical center, famous for its splendid shop windows, is the home of one of the oldest and most prestigious historical residences of Florence's heritage. Palazzo Rucellai holds an important place in the city's patrimony, one of a city that was long ago celebrated as the world's art capital. The historic building was constructed in 1455 for a very important businessman, Giovanni Rucellai who commissioned Leon Battista Alberti for the construction of a residence that would find its place in the world's memory along with the worlds most important noble residences. To construct his grandiose project, Giovanni Rucellai bought and then tore down many of the surrounding houses.
The construction has two floors above the ground floor, the division of each marked by a linear cornice. On the ground floor there are two entrances crowned by windows and surrounded by small openings for air flow. The two square doorways are flanked by street benches that run the length of the building: long platforms in stone characteristic of 15th century buildings that then, and still today, serve as a resting place for passer-bys and visitors to the palazzo. The building's perspectives are made by the geometric lines of the upper floors. On the lines that divided the levels of the building rest the beautiful mullioned windows, on some of which the stone noble family crests are set. The geometry that sets the facade apart is that which closes the mullioned windows in between pillars topped with ornate classical capitals.


Inside the arch of the windows are the family crests of the noble Rucellai family: rings with diamonds and feathers. The first floor, traditionally called the noble floor, was decorated for the occasion of the wedding of Giuseppe Rucellai with Teresa de' Pazzi. The interiors of the upper floors are refined and simple: large ball rooms with vaulting frescoed with classically styled mythical figures, salons with sober and linear furnishings. Simple spaces that, in their vastness, bring to mind gala evenings of an age now long gone.
Palazzo Rucellai includes in its dimensions another precious construction, that diagonally opposite it: the splendid Loggia Rucellai which opens onto via della Vigna Nuova through enormous panes of glass. It was constructed from three arches and an architrave with the precious family crests. Until 1677 the Loggia was the location of public and private Rucellai family ceremonies that were usually organized for special occasions. Through time it has undergone several changes. It was walled up, to be reopened to the public only in 1960 after long restoration work. Today it often serves as an exposition space for masterpieces in contemporary art.

Palazzo Rucellai
via della Vigna Nuova
Rosa Maria de Meo

in architecture, type of decorative masonry achieved by cutting back the edges of stones to a plane surface while leaving the central portion of the face either rough or projecting markedly. Rustication provides a rich and bold surface for exterior masonry walls. . .
Early Renaissance Italian architects further developed the tradition of rustication, using it effectively to decorate palaces in the 15th century. Thus, in the Pitti Palace (1458), the Medici-Riccardi Palace (1444-59), and the Strozzi Palace (c. 1489), all in Florence, the carefully designed rustication is the chief ornamental element.

in architecture, decorative horizontal band on the exterior wall of a building. Such a band, either plain or molded, is usually formed of brick or stone. The stringcourse occurs in virtually every style of Western architecture, from Classical Roman through Anglo-Saxon and Renaissance to modern.

Often the stringcourse is used as a line of demarcation between the stories of a multistoried building. It is also used, especially in classical and neoclassical works, as an extension of the upper or lower horizontal line of a bank of windows. Examples may be seen on the Pantheon, built in Rome in the 2nd century AD; on many palaces of Renaissance Italy, including the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi (1444-59) and the Palazzo Strozzi (1489-1539), both in Florence; and on various manor houses in the English Renaissance style of the mid-16th to early 19th centuries.

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