The greatest precursor of the sixteenth century in terms of architecture, was Donato Bramante (1444-1514). His constructions are certainly less pure, less aristocratic, less classical than those of Brunelleschi and Luciano Laurana; they reflect a changing temperament that oscillates from the tendency towards smooth, expansive Lucian surfaces to the love of grandiose overhangs and powerful Roman shadows; freely created motifs overflow; the purely classical elements are accompanied by elements of medieval origin; classicism returns to dominate the overall effect only for the monumental character that Bramante’s art has in common with ancient Roman art. And it is for this monumentality that he can be considered the author of the architecture of the sixteenth century.
Donato Bramante brings the style of the last fifteenth century to a logical consequence, barely accentuating its solidity. The regular bodies, the geometric shapes are coordinated as a whole, as if they were on an ideal surface.
Architectural coordination in static rhythm is also sought by Raphael, despite his personality; Giulio Romano adds an intelligent and cold imitation of the classic; Baldassarre Peruzzi makes himself, like Antonio da San Gallo the Elder, a Bramante style. Throughout Italy there are masters in Bramante’s taste: Fanella, Rossetti, Zaccagni, Andrea da Formigine, Antonio Lombardi.
While Bramante was beginning the new San Pietro, he failed. And this is how Michelangelo judged the great building that had begun: “It cannot be denied that Bramante was not as good in architecture as any other that was from the ancients to here. He placed the first stone of St. Peter’s, not full of confusion, but clear and tidy, and luminous, and isolated around it, so that he did not wallow in anything in the building; and it was held beautiful, as is still evident; so that anyone who has deviated from Bramante’s order, as Sangallo did, has deviated from the truth ”. With the idea of the new San Pietro, Bramante was able to give Italy that “clear, sincere and luminous” first stone that purified the architecture from the ornamentation, immersed it in the construction, and the construction, freed from the contingencies of practice,
Architectural unity in monumental rhythm was the work of Michelangelo, who brings movement where the static of Bramante’s coordination is, and transforms coordination itself into a closer unity, indeed into subordination to unity, so that the architectural elements become larger and rough to present itself as a mass rather than a line.
The oldest great expression of Michelangelo’s art in the field of architecture is the new sacristy of San Lorenzo in Florence. Next to it, in the church itself, is the sacristy by Filippo Brunelleschi: a linear weave of thin, folding rushes over the square walls, a gothic slenderness again, lightness and impetus of profiles. Even Michelangelo’s large room is divided into squares and lunettes, severely striped in gray and white; but, due to the deep and multiple excavations of the walls, the subtle texture of Brunelleschi’s framing changes into a game of defined and robust masses, advancing and retreating one another. And that is, like painting, Michelangelo’s architecture is always an expression of sculptural art: Michelangelo’s constant study is the identified and clear relief of masses erupting from a flat background, authors of shadows. The elasticity of Brunelleschi’s moldings relives in the overhang of the cornices upwards, but tamed by the brake of opposing forces, burdening downwards; to the rush of the windows, accentuated by the large fret of the upper frame, the rib opposes its crushing pressure of yoke, the laurel branch the funeral fall of the pendulous heads. The majesty of architecture is perhaps unmatched in the sixteenth century: a rectilinear pattern of rulers emerging with prismatic clarity from large naked mirrors; gravity of arches crushed above the tall windows, by the narrowness of space that bends them and suddenly breaks them on the expanded abacuses of the capitals; austere very electrifying sobriety, which prepares ornamental motifs for the art of the sixteenth century. Through the events of impulses and rigid falls, an overall impression of gravity arises.
According to answermba, the same spirit was to inform the bulk of the monument to Pope Julius, according to the design that remains of it. The architectural shapes and the statues on the second floor follow a crescendo of momentum, detachment from the ground, in their ascent; which is opposed, with a sudden crushing contrast of yoke, by the great arch of the coping. And even in the unfortunate current state of the monument, which was certainly the greatest dream of Michelangelo’s daring mind, the sculptural life of his architecture finds echo, especially in the prodigious shelves: marble cables pulled by force between creaking winches.
The work that gloriously closes the life of the Florentine is the dome of San Pietro, the crowning glory of the new Rome. The dome, raised in the sky of the city, on the mother church of the Christian world, holds the triumphal ascent of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore; but this effect arises from the composition, at a distance, of the powerful contrasts between advancing and retreating masses, between floors in violent light and deep shadows, of the events of impulses and brakes. Its bulk, which, from a distance, finds rest in the majesty of the wide ascending curves, is the dream of Michelangelo’s imagination towards greatness, which has become reality.