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Recent Restoration

What is Renaissance Architecture Symmetric Style?

It had an emphasis on symmetry.

Chateau de Chambord (1519-1547)

Symmetry is economy.
Symmetry is simplicity.

“The architecture of our brains was born from the same trial and error, the same energy principles, the same pure mathematics that happen in flowers and jellyfish and Higgs particles.” — Alan Lightman.

The Piazza del Campidoglio.

This style has an emphasis on symmetry, proportion, geometry, and the regularity of parts, as demonstrated in the architecture of classical antiquity.

Renaissance architecture is the European architecture of the period between the early 14th and early 16th centuries in different regions.

Renaissance architecture followed Gothic architecture and was succeeded by Baroque architecture.

Developed first in Florence, with Filippo Brunelleschi as one of its innovators, the Renaissance style quickly spread to other Italian cities.

Filippo Brunelleschi.

Italian, also known as Pippo 1377–15 April 1446 is considered to be the founding of Renaissance architecture.

He was an Italian architect, designer, and sculptor, and is the first modern engineer, planner, and sole construction supervisor.

The style was used in Spain, France, Germany, England, Russia, and other parts of Europe at different dates and with varying degrees of impact.

Renaissance style places emphasis on symmetry…

It was demonstrated in the architecture of classical antiquity and in particular ancient Roman architecture.

Systematic display of columns, pilasters, and lintels, as well as the use of semicircular arches, hemispherical domes…

Plan of Bramante’s Tempietto in Montorio.

Plan of Bramante’s Tempietto in Montorio.

Raphael’s unused plan for St. Peter’s Basilica.

Raphael’s unused plan for St. Peter’s Basilica.

Brunelleschi’s plan of Santo Spirito.

Brunelleschi’s plan of Santo Spirito.

Michelangelo’s plan for Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome (1546), superimposed on the earlier plan by Bramante.

Michelangelo’s plan for Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome (1546), superimposed on the earlier plan by Bramante.

“But why are we attracted to symmetry?

Why do we human beings delight in seeing perfectly round planets through the lens of a telescope and six-sided snowflakes on a cold winter day?

The answer must be partly psychological.

I would claim that symmetry represents order, and we crave order in this strange universe we find ourselves in.

The search for symmetry, and the emotional pleasure we derive when we find it, must help us make sense of the seasons and the reliability of friendships.

Symmetry is also economy.
Symmetry is simplicity.”
― Alan Lightman

The emphasis on symmetry is very much noted on all construction from that time.

Palazzo Medici Riccardi by Michelozzo. Florence, 1444.

Palazzo Medici Riccardi by Michelozzo. Florence, 1444.

Symmetry is also economy.

Symmetry is simplicity.

Symmetry is repetition.

Venus and Mars by Sandro Botticelli

An allegory of Love overcoming War… and much else besides

Venus and Mars

What does the painting show? A woman and a man lying in a grassy glade, surrounded by trees and shrubbery. She is sat up with her elbow cushioned by a red pillow; he has fallen asleep with his head outstretched in deep slumber. Behind them, a group of baby satyrs — half-human and half-goat creatures — are playing with the man’s weapons.

She is Venus, the goddess of love and fertility. He is Mars, the god of war. When read as an allegory, the message is of Love conquering Strife. His brutal and aggressive nature is subdued by Love’s grace. To further prove his disarmament, his weapons laid aside are being carried away by the impish satyrs.

Detail of ‘Venus and Mars’ (c 1485) by Sandro Botticelli.

What I like about this painting is the very directness of the scene. The artist, Sandro Botticelli (1445–1510), has managed to fill an extraordinary amount of detail into the composition without stifling the aesthetic balance. This has the effect of bringing the scene close-up to the viewer whilst maintaining a sense of clarity. The colour tones are light and simple, and each figure is painted with a degree of vividness that seems to illuminate their very presence.

The unusual rectangular shape of the painting suggests it was made as part of the decoration for a room in a Florentine townhouse, possibly for the backboard of a bench or a chest. As such, it is likely that Botticelli was commissioned to make the work for a client.

Detail of ‘Venus and Mars’ (c 1485) by Sandro Botticelli. Tempera and oil on poplar panel

Close attention to Mars’s head reveals he has several wasps buzzing around him. The wasps are possibly a symbol that love is often accompanied by pain; another explanation is that they represent the Vespucci family of Florence who may have commissioned the painting. Their name means “little wasps” in Italian and their coat of arms included wasps in its symbolism.

The allegory of Love conquering War was a popular subject in Renaissance times. It was often used in commemorations of a betrothal (sometimes the two figures of Venus and Mars were portrayed in the likeness of the engaged couple). The moral message reflected the code of chivalry of the Renaissance courtier, whose best values were thought to combine manly courage with honourable romance.

There is, of course, more going on in this painting than a moral allegory, and the clue is in the very intimacy of the setting: we should under no doubt deny that the two figures have just slept together.

Both Homer and Ovid tell of the two gods becoming lovers. Botticelli’s painting focuses on the psychological moment of intimacy and post-coital reflection. Many historians agree that the painting draws on a famous classical work by the artist Echion. This painting, now lost, was described by the Greek poet Lucian: as showing the wedding ceremony of Alexander the Great and Roxana, adapting the iconography of Venus and Mars to the historical Alexander and his bride. Lucian’s description mentions amoretti or putti (chubby male children) playing with Alexander’s armour during the ceremony, two carrying his lance and one who has crawled inside his breastplate. Botticelli’s painting follows this pattern almost exactly.

So the painting offers a representation of sensual pleasure, with the male of the species having fallen asleep afterwards. This is a joke as old as the hills, and was no less popular in the context of weddings in Renaissance Italy as it is today.

Still, one can’t help but feel that Botticelli has given the final word to Venus, whose expression has a quiet indignant quality as she overlooks the sleeping Mars. He is deep in his dreams, and now she has time to consider him. Her thoughts are perhaps poised between satisfaction and frustration, or curiosity and indifference.

Detail of ‘Venus and Mars’ (c 1485) by Sandro Botticelli. Tempera and oil on poplar panel

Tellingly, the fingers of her left hand toy suggestively with her gown, which folds in translucent layers and is edged by an elaborate golden hem. He is worn through; she is still wide awake. In fact, he is so deep in his slumber that he does not wake even when a conch shell is blown like a horn into his ear. His militant virility has turned dulcet; he is just a boy after all, once his armour — the costume of his barbarism — has been spirited away.

Botticelli, an artist who was keen to draw on the classical themes explored by Humanist scholars, has also produced an image of lucid psychological subtlety.

Venus and Mars (c 1485) by Sandro Botticelli. Tempera and oil on poplar panel