Maderno, Carlo

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Maderno, Carlo (c.1556–1629). Leading architect working in Rome from the mid-1570s, before Bernini, Borromini, and Cortona developed the Baroque style to its greatest potential. He started under D. Fontana, his uncle, and was involved in the re-erection of the Ancient Egyptian obelisks at Piazza di San Pietro (1586), Piazza dell'Esquilino (1587), Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano (1588), and Piazza del Pòpolo (1589). He worked on a number of engineering projects before designing his masterpiece, the remodelling of the Church of Santa Susanna on the Quirinal Hill (1593–1603), with a dramatic façade based on that of Il Gesù, but with an engaged lower Order and scrolls linking the narrower upper pilaster façade to the wider front below. Emphasis was more decisive and vertical than at Il Gesù. After the election of Pope Paul V (1605–21) Maderno was appointed Architect to St Peter's, where he constructed the nave (1609–16), began work on the decorations of the crossing, built the curving stairs leading to the confessio, designed the façade facing the Piazza (its great width was occasioned by the enforced requirement to add two campanili of which only the first two stages were built), and created the fountain (later moved to the cross-axis of the obelisk and duplicated with a twin by Bernini).

At the Mother-Church of the Theatines, Sant'Andrea della Valle, Maderno completed the nave, added the transepts and chancel, and constructed the distinguished and beautiful dome with lantern (1608–c.1628). He also designed the façade, begun in the mid-1620s, and completed with modifications by Rainaldi in the 1660s. He was responsible for the Palazzo Mattei di Giove, Rome (1598–1617), and the Villa Aldobrandini, Frascati (1603–c.1620), including the superb semicircular water-theatre featuring arched niches with grottoes and fountains fed by a chain of stepped cascades at the top of which is a pair of spiral columns. One of his last works was the Palazzo Barberini, Rome (1626–8), completed by Bernini.


Hibbard (1971);
P. Murray (1969, 1986);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Jane Turner (1996);
van Vynckt (ed.) (1993);
Waddy (1990)

Carlo Maderno

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Carlo Maderno

The Italian architect Carlo Maderno (1556-1629) was the creator of the early baroque style in architecture.

Carlo Maderno was born at Capolago on Lake Lugano. He went to Rome before 1588 and worked for his uncle, Domenico Fontana, the architect to Pope Sixtus V. Not until 1596 did Maderno receive an important architectural commission—the church of S. Susanna; until then he lived as a stuccoworker and decorator.

The facade of S. Susanna was completed in 1603 and is considered the first baroque facade. Maderno started from the type established by Giacomo da Vignola's design for, and Giacomo della Porta's executed version of, the Church of the Gesùin Rome, but the significance of Maderno's contribution lies in his reversal of Della Porta's alterations to Vignola's design. In its original form the Gesùfacade had a slight emphasis on the center, building up from the pilasters at the edges to attached columns in the middle. But, Della Porta made a more complex design in which no really dominant accent is felt: Maderno returned to the concept of a facade as something simple but building up to a climax at the center, and he used both sculpture and decorative elements to create a simple, uncluttered, but rich impression. This is the hallmark of early baroque.

St. Peter's

S. Susanna was a great success, and in 1603 Maderno was appointed, with another uncle, Giovanni Fontana, to succeed Della Porta as architect to St. Peter's. Here he made the most significant contribution since Michelangelo, because he pulled down the remaining parts of Old St. Peter's and proceeded to transform Michelangelo's centralized Greek-cross design into a Latin cross with a long nave and chapels. This extension of the basilica was undoubtedly necessary from the point of view of practical requirements, but it destroyed Michelangelo's great conception and substituted something less impressive, since the great dome can no longer be appreciated from every point of view.

As a result of these alterations, Maderno had to design a facade which would not detract too much from the dome and, at the same time, would be worthy of its setting and also contain a central feature, the Benediction Loggia, to provide a frame for the figure of the pope when he appeared in public. These conflicting requirements were met as far as possible by Maderno's adaptation of a typical Roman palace facade, with decorative motives taken from Michelangelo's works. The plan to provide bell towers at the ends to enframe the dome in distant views had to be abandoned because the foundations gave trouble. The work, including the decoration, was completed and consecrated on Nov. 18, 1626.

Among Maderno's other works are the church of S. Maria della Vittoria (1605; facade by G. B. Soria, 1626) and the church of S. Andrea della Valle (1608-1628; facade completed by Carlo Rainaldi in 1665), which has the largest dome in Rome after St. Peter's. In 1628 he designed the huge Palazzo Barberini, altered and completed by others. He died in Rome on Jan. 30, 1629.

Further Reading

The best account of Maderno in English is in Rudolf Wittkower, Art and Architecture in Italy, 1600-1750 (1958; 2d ed. 1965). □

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Carlo Maderno

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