Bernardo Buontalenti and the Unity of the Arts in Practice (1563-1608)
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CitationAddona, Victoria. 2020. Bernardo Buontalenti and the Unity of the Arts in Practice (1563-1608). Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation charts interconnections across the late sixteenth-century Florentine architect Bernardo Buontalenti’s disparate domains of building activity – as civil engineer, court architect, scenographer, inventor of machines, and teacher – to offer the first in-depth English-language study of the architect and period, at the beginnings of the history of architectural professionalization. It examines how multidisciplinary approaches to architectural practice in late sixteenth-century Florence shaped the collaborative and multimedia works Buontalenti designed as granducal court architect, developed in dialogue with the figural arts and sciences. Characterized by the dramatic play of shadow and light, textural surfaces, and tensile forms seemingly frozen in movement, this architecture crystallized a new conception of space based on pictorial principles of expression and animation. It took shape in built structures that confounded the boundaries between artistic mediums: frescoed exteriors, grotesque ornament, theatrical sets and machinery, ephemeral apparatuses, gardens and grottoes. This dissertation contends that, more than autonomous aesthetic statements challenging the limits of architectural invention, these interventions crafted a powerful urban image of granducal rule by organizing Florence’s private and public spaces according to affective visual-spatial principles of design. In doing so, it proposes a new methodology to think across medium-specific practices in early modern architectural history.
The text focuses on five primary case studies, each focusing on distinct but interrelated domains of architectural practice: first, architectural drawing; second, perspective construction and scenography; third, machine invention; fourth, spatial design; and finally, ornamenting exteriors. Throughout, it questions how early modern architectural representation developed out of syncretic artistic practices and examines how these confrontations shaped novel modes of architectural experience in the built environment. More broadly, by considering the plural spaces of architectural learning and practice in the late sixteenth century–studio, academy, workshop, work site–my study offers an opportunity to rethink how networked models of artistic thinking and practice transform architectural production. Finally, by situating the granduchy’s investment in innovative architectural representations as a strategy to remedy Tuscany’s waning relevance on a rapidly shifting global stage, my project understands architectural invention as an analytic framework from which to examine the circulation of cultural capital in the global Mediterranean.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365126
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