Palazzo Massimo

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 22 October 2016

Palazzo Massimo

Baldassarre Peruzzi constructed many architectural masterpieces but his most famous is arguably the Palazzo Massimo in Rome, Italy. The Palazzo Massimo began construction in 1532 after the famous 1527 Sack of Rome (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009). The site that was chosen for the Palazzo Massimo presented some unique challenges to Peruzzi. The most obvious challenge was the curved design of the road where the building was to be constructed. In order to meet this challenge Peruzzi designed the Palazzo Massimo to have a curved facade to match with the curve of the road (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009).

This design differed from traditional design in that the building was constructed to match the landscape rather than the “prevailing principles of central focus and vertical linkages between floors” (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009). Despite the fact that Peruzzi went against traditional Renaissance design, the Palazzo Massimo can be considered one of the great architectural masterpieces of all time. The unusual curved facade of the Palazzo Massimo now stands where an old Roman theater once stood (Salvadori, 1990). The building curves along the Old Papal Way (Salvadori, 1990).

The Palazzo Massimo is part of three different palaces built on the same site. The three joined palaces are neighbored by palaces on either side and a small piazza behind the buildings (Salvadori, 1990). The Palazzo Massimo was designed as a set of rectangular rooms surrounding rectangular courtyards that follow the symmetries of the landscape (Salvadori, 1990). The facade is perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the Palazzo Massimo and extends beyond the actual building to form a symmetrical entryway held up by six Doric columns to form an entry portico (Salvadori, 1990).

The front facade also boasts many rectangular windows with simply detailed stonework. The combination of these designs makes the Palazzo Massimo one of the first examples of the Mannerism style of architecture (Salvadori, 1990). Mannerism refers to certain aspects of architectural style between the Renaissance period of the early 16th century and the Baroque period of the early 17th century (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009). The primary characteristics of the Mannerism style included sophistication, complexity and novelty (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009).

The Palazzo Massimo is considered a Mannerist piece of architecture because of its innovative curved facade that can be described as both complex and novel. The curved design of the Palazzo Massimo is classic of Mannerism because it went against the Renaissance style of passive design (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009). Another way that the Palazzo Massimo goes against traditional Renaissance design is with the lack of harmonious balance between the floors (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009).

The upper three stories of the Palazzo Massimo are constructed of brick covered with stucco that is designed to look like real stone (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009). Underneath the three stories in the center of the building is the loggia which doesn’t appear strong enough to bear the weight of the building (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009). In addition, the rectangular windows also lack balance. The larger rectangular windows of the second floor are vertical while the smaller rectangular windows of the third and fourth floors are horizontal (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009).

The lack of balance may go against the traditional Renaissance design that was primarily used until the Sack of Rome in 1527 but Peruzzi’s design is architecturally ingenious anyway. The Doric columns are constructed directly onto the ground of the Palazzo Massimo and hold up the extending aspect of the facade. Inside there are two courtyards which also boast Doric columns. These Doric columns helped give the name to the Palazzo Massimo (alle Colonne). Additionally, the Doric columns follow the curvature of the facade which also indicates the beginning of the Baroque period and its characteristic curved lines (A RomeArtLovers.

com, 2009). The exterior columns are separated into four groups. The outer groups consist of just one column while the inner groups each consist of two columns. The four groups enable the portico to remain in place. Finally, the use of six columns indicates that the Palazzo Massimo incorporated hexastyle column design. The exterior of the Palazzo Massimo does not include a pediment, the traditional triangular shaped piece that sits on top of the columns.

The curved facade would make constructing a pediment rather difficult and it would also take away from the complex design that Peruzzi had in mind when he designed the exterior of the palace. The fact that Peruzzi eliminated the pediment from his design for the Palazzo Massimo indicates his shift from Renaissance architecture to a Mannerist style of architecture. The Pediment is most classically associated with Greek and Roman architecture including the famous Parthenon. The Palazzo Massimo also does not include an exterior pendentive.

A pendentive is an architectural design that allows a dome to be placed on top of a room. St. Paul’s Cathedral in London is a classic example of an exterior pendentive. While the Palazzo Massimo does not include an exterior pendentive, there are similar aspects on the interior of the palace. The interior does not include a pendentive that encompasses an entire room but it does have small pendentive like constructions that showcase different statuary artwork. These elaborately carved half domes are constructed above rectangular alcoves that hold various pieces of art (A RomeArtLovers. com, 2009).

Once again, Peruzzi’s use of pendentive like alcoves on the interior of the building allows the Palazzo Massimo to be considered a Mannerist piece of architecture while also incorporating some aspects of Renaissance architecture as well. While the exterior of the Palazzo Massimo can be considered rather plain and unexciting, the interior is part of what makes the Palazzo Massimo one of the greatest architectural designs of all time. The Palazzo Massimo is only open to the public on March 16 of each year. This public opening commemorates the miracle of San Fillipo Neri which occurred on March 16, 1583.

The miracle involved a young boy named Paolo Massimi who was recalled from the dead by San Fellipo Neri. Neri had a short conversation with Paolo Massimi but wasn’t able to convince him to remain on earth. The boy was anxious to hear the angelic choir, claimed he was ready and willing to die and returned to heaven. The room where he died is now a chapel and masses are recited on the morning of March 16 each year (Caggia & Gwynne, 2009). The portico (porch) and entrance to the inner court show some of the innovative designs of Peruzzi that allowed the Palazzo Massimo to be built with a curved design (A RomeArtLovers.

com, 2009). The portico of the Palazzo Massimo is a covered porch area that is held up by the Doric columns. The portico is the first glimpse of the interior of the Palazzo Massimo. The portico is typically larger than a porch as it is usually constructed as a walkway leading to the entrance of a building. Porticos were very common in Roman Renaissance architecture and Peruzzi’s use of a portico on an otherwise non traditional building allows the Palazzo Massimo to fit in with the surrounding architecture of neighboring palaces.

The portico is the main entrance to the Palazzo Massimo and Peruzzi’s use of traditional Renaissance architecture speaks to the importance of the principal entrance to a building. The Palazzo Massimo also includes front arcades. Arcades are arches help up by columns. The ceiling of the arcade includes detailed coffering. Coffering is another aspect of traditional Renaissance design and Peruzzi was able to incorporate the beauty of coffering with the innovative curved design of the front arcade (A RomeArtLovers. com, 2009).

The mosaic design of the floor tiles inside the Palazzo Massimo also lends beauty and complexity to the design of the palace. A mosaic is a pattern of stones or tiles that is inlayed to create a piece of art. In the case of the Palazzo Massimo the mosaic makes up the floor (A RomeArtLovers. com, 2009). The mosaic is a commonly used design in Roman architecture and the Massimo family enjoyed the mosaic designs which allowed Peruzzi to incorporate a mosaic floor into the design of the Palazzo Massimo (A RomeArtLovers. com, 2009).

The beauty and color of the mosaic floor of the Palazzo Massimo contrasts with the dark and neutral appearance of the exterior and allows the palace to be one of Peruzzi’s greatest designs. In addition to the mosaic floor, the interior of the Palazzo Massimo also includes many elaborate stone carvings along the walls (A RomeArtLovers. com, 2009). The interior of the Palazzo Massimo also includes ceilings, vestibules and niches that display rosettes and coffered roofs. The coffering includes ornate panels built into the design of the roof.

This design makes use of rosettes which are rose shaped carvings that add complexity. The ceiling fresco at the entrance of the building also adds beauty to a Mannerist design that went against traditional architecture (A RomeArtLovers. com, 2009). The Palazzo Massimo incorporates pieces of Renaissance architecture into what is can be considered a Mannerist palace. Architecture has always served the practical purpose of creating residential and commercial buildings. However, the design of the Palazzo Massimo goes beyond functionality to create an architectural design that is also pleasing to the eye.

The Mannerist style in which it was designed allows for creativity and innovative ideas that serve aesthetic purposes rather than practical purposes. It is true that part of the reason Peruzzi designed the Palazzo Massimo the way that he did was to meet the challenge of the curved road. However, Peruzzi was also able to take the challenge of the curved road and turn it into an architectural feat that is still admired today. A RomeArtLovers. com. (2009). Palazzo Massimi detto delle Colonne.

Retrieved on January 25, 2009 from http://www. romeartlover. it/Vasi76. htm. Caggia, Sergio & Gwynne, Paul. (2009). Palazzo Massimo Alle Colonne. From Nerone the Insider’s Guide to Rome. Retrieved on January 25, 2009 from http://www. nerone. cc/nerone/archivio/arch17. htm. Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne. (2009). In Encyclop? dia Britannica. Retrieved January 25, 2009, from Encyclop? dia Britannica Online: http://www. britannica. com/EBchecked/topic/368584/Palazzo-Massimo-alle Salvadori, Renzo. (1990). Architect’s Guide to Rome. London: Butterworth Architecture.


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  • University/College: University of California

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 22 October 2016

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