Project XXVIII (fols. 29v-31r)

As I have already noted in the parallel Project XIX for the ‘illustrious Prince’ with its hexagonal plan, this project for a fortress for a ‘Tyrant Prince’ has an even clearer relationship with designs by Sangallo and Peruzzi for Caprarola. And in this respect it could also shed light on the much debated question of Vignola’s contribution to that masterpiece of the 16th century. The fact that this project is (I believe, with no doubt at all) based on designs which figure amongst Serlio’s papers before his move to France, indeed before his stay in Venice, makes this problem all the more complicated. There is nothing preventing us from imagining that the young Vignola saw these designs (and we don’t know whether they were the Sangallo/Peruzzi originals or whether they had already been re-elaborated by Serlio) during his stay in Fontainebleau, in other words 15 years before necessarily having to take into account (in 1559) what had already been done at the Farnese villa fortress and started in the second decade of the 16th century.

As is known following the publication by Giovannoni of the designs by Sangallo and Peruzzi, the question has turned to the entirety of the work commissioned by Pope Paul III. How much of the initial Sangallo/Peruzzi project was built into the structure erected by Vignola? And the discussion centres on the form of the stupendous central courtyard. I agree with Walcher-Casotti that the merit goes to Vignola for having brought to the building firstly the artistic vitality represented by the insertion of the circle inside the pentagon and secondly the expressive power and eurhythmy of the Bramantesque double Order crowned with a balustraded terrace. It should be noted that it is the syncopation of the circular terrace above the three storeys of the surrounding pentagon which ‘links’, and at the same time dialectically identifies the relationship of, the inner circle to the outer pentagon, understood in the sense of volume and space.

If we now consider the relationship of the Sangallo/Peruzzi designs to that by Serlio and the built edifice, we note that Serlio in fact presents two variants of the project. The differences between the plan on fol.30r and that on 31r are secondary: i.e., the insertion of small bastions on the corners of the pentagon; the increase in the number of the vertical axes on the internal façades (three in the first and five in the second) with consequent diversity of rhythm on the external façades, uniform in the first and tripartite on the second; the abandoning of Rustication for the ground floor storey. It is however necessary to point them out as features of the two ‘variants’, inasmuch as on the one hand they are linked to the different features of the Sangallo/Peruzzi designs and on the other


they act as a prelude, in very different ways, to Vignola’s realisation of the building.

As regards the fundamental problem of who instigated the final form of the central courtyard, circular replacing pentagonal, the evidence of Serlio appears to decide decisively in favour of Vignola. In both Serlio’s versions the form is a pentagon, and this must have reflected the definitive Sangallo/Peruzzi project, as indeed Peruzzi’s designs in the Uffizi do show (that Sangallo’s overlayed sketches, showing his successive thoughts on the plan, also contemplate the possibility of a circle does not diminish the power of the Peruzzi/Serlio unanimity in favour of the pentagon). Furthermore, the close adherence to Sangallo’s first design is underlined by Serlio’s planning of a bulky series of pentagonal fortifications at some distance from, and enclosing, the villa-fortress and reinforced at the corners by large bastions. Even the detail (which Serlio also mentions in the commentary) of the vaulted bivouac for the soldiers underneath the walls seems to have been indicated fleetingly in Sangallo’s design. This is a feature also used by Sanmicheli on his fortifications.

[Figure 175 - Vignola, Villa-Fortress of Caprarola (from Gurlitt)

Figure 176 - A. Sangallo ‘the Younger’, Uffizi A 775

Figure 177 - B. Peruzzi, Uffizi A 500]

All this is illustrated on fol.30r, whose purpose is to show the building as a whole. Fol.31r, which represents on a larger scale simply the main house, is more closely linked to the designs by Peruzzi, as is demonstrated by the bastions on the corners of the villa and the increase in the number of the vertical axes on the internal façades to five.

Nevertheless, there are significant differences between the plans of Sangallo/Peruzzi and that by Serlio. As Walcher-Casotti has pointed out, Sangallo and Peruzzi ‘have a series of room which are placed laboriously one after the other with no real correspondence between them and which are continually interrupted by numerous staircases’ (Walcher-Casotti, M., op. cit., p.74). Serlio’s rooms however already have the ‘coherent and harmonic ambiental dispostion’ characteristic of Vignola’s creation. And this is logical when we consider that the transformation from Sangallo/Peruzzi’s purely military, defensive concept to the half-and-half compromise of the villa-fortress occurred first with Serlio and later with Vignola. The differences between the Serlio and the Vignola projects are only of a rhythmic character. On the one hand Vignola is more easily able to separate the staircases from the sequence of the rooms by using the spaces created by the insertion of the circle into the pentagon. On the other, Vignola places the main sale in the two sides flanking the entrance side, reserving the remaining two sides for the small habitable rooms. Serlio however attempts a more complex relationship, alternating, both on the left and right of the entrance side, the sale and habitable rooms. The basic concept is the same but it is resolved by the creation of complete ‘apartments’ in the pairs of sides to the right and left of the entrance side, making optimum use of the pentagonal plan.

As for the elevations and section, the story is different in that the Sangallo/Peruzzi schemes lack for the most part a comparable design. A sketch by Peruzzi presents a transversal section but it only indicates, firstly, a significant difference in level between the entrance to the fortress and the level of the internal courtyard (evidently for defensive reasons) and, secondly, the motif of the portico and loggia on the courtyard linked to parts of the building by being covered by the same roof slope. The clear military tone (the external walls are 8 feet thick) would lead to the logical hypothesis that the corner bastions were to be as tall as the rest of the building. Serlio’s elevations, on the other hand, anticipate in many ways Vignola’s work, notably:

On the external elevations;

there are numerous openings and an austerity reminiscent of the 16th century Roman palazzo;

(in the ‘variant’) the top of the bastions is level with the top of the first storey.

On the internal elevations;

the Rustic pillars on the ground floor are paired;

there are columns on the first floor, as with Vignola, although Vignola’s columns are more complex and dialectical.

Furthermore, both present the solution of the portico with loggia topped by a balustraded terrace, a feature which would be built by Vignola.



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