Project XX-XXI (fols. 19v-21r)

This is the first of the three successive projects for the 'exceedingly illustrious Prince' (evidently of royal blood given that after the interruption of the 'Tyrant Prince' there follow the projects for the King). Serlio mistakenly gives two numbers per project, one for the plan and one for the elevations and sections. This and the following project are linked by common elements: the two plans are clear re-elaborations and enrichments of plans for the city in Book VII, for which I restate the opinion here that they date back to the author's Venetian period. The two elevations appear to reveal clear signs of knowledge of Giuliano da Sangallo's and Michelangelo's designs for the fašade of S. Lorenzo in Florence. In fact, Michelangelo was cited in 1540 by Serlio in the dedication to Alfonso d'Avalos in the second edition of Book IV but only as the author of 'marvellous works both of painting and sculpture' [Also cited in 1537 in the dedicatory letter to Ercole d'Este (eds.)].

It is certainly true that, in the fifth decade of the 16th century, fašades of this sort (of clearly ecclesiastical flavour, stretched out horizontally and powerfully rhythmed with paired columns and half-columns with niches, closed-off at the extremities by robust corner structures) all have fundamentally the same precedent in the projects presented for the Florentine so-called 'competition' of 1516; unless of course we consider Giovannoni's rather dubious and hypothetical reconstructions of the elevations of Antonio da Sangallo 'the Younger's' projects, such as those for S. Tolomeo di Nepi. But here too Antonio was influenced by the S. Lorenzo projects through his uncle, Giuliano.

[F/note: See for example the design Uffizi A 790 which Giovannoni attributes to Antonio (perhaps an idea for S. Maria dell'Anima in Rome) but which is clearly inspired by Giuliano's projects for S. Lorenzo.]

The sense of lack of coherence in this Project XX-XXI is indicated by the ungainly combination of a plan for a building 'in the countryside' (one of Serlio's most typical) with an elevation clearly designed for a sacred building.

[F/note: The matrix is a central plan which passes from Giuliano da Sangallo to Falconetto, Serlio and Palladio.]

[F/note: This ecclesiastical character was noted by Du Colombier-D'Espezel (op. cit., p. 39) in reference to the typical three-storey fašades of the northern European Jesuit churches.]

And this is all the more evident at a moment in the history of architecture when the process towards the 'typification' of architectural models for villas, palazzos and churches was well on the way to becoming fixed. Of course some of the elements which help to give this ecclesiastical character take their origin from the complex distribution of the villa. The most evident of these features, the third storey with its pediment limited to the central part of the fašade, was dictated by the fact that there is a central body with three storeys in front of an octagonal central courtyard and a matching second (wider) rear body, whilst the two side parts have only two storeys. Similarly the two bare brackets linking the second and third storeys (so 16th century) are justified by the wish to hide the slopes of the roofs joining the central body - roofs which are however visible at the rear. But the basic incoherence is undeniable.

As regards the modulation of the ornamentation, it is interesting to note the almost perfect correspondence of the first and second storeys on the fašade with the definitive built version of the courtyard of Ancy-le-Franc. The only variant of importance, namely the opening of the windows in-between the paired semi-columns on the first storey, may have inspired De l'Orme in his project for the internal front of the entrance wing of St. Maur, on the recommencement of work at the instruction of Catherine de'Medici, after 1563.

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