Bramante, Donato

views updated Jun 08 2018

Bramante, Donato or Donato di Angelo di Pascuccio d'Antonio (1444–1514). The only architect of the High Renaissance (with the exception of Raphael) respected by his peers and successors as the equal of the ancients, it was he, above all, who revealed the power, emotional possibilities, and gravity of Antique Roman architecture. Born near Urbino, he trained as a painter, and perhaps knew Piero della Francesca (c.1410/20–1492) and Francesco di Giorgio at the Court of Federigo da Montefeltro (reigned 1444–82) in that city, but his first documented appearance was as a painter of frescoes at the Palazzo del Podestà, Bergamo (1477). Around 1479 he entered the service of Ludovico Sforza (1452–1508) in Milan, where he turned his attention to architecture, and met Leonardo da Vinci, who was to alert him to the problems of designing centralized churches. Bramante's first significant church was Santa Maria presso San Satiro, Milan (begun c.1481), where he erected the first coffered dome since Antiquity, made the shallow east end appear as a deep chancel by means of theatrical perspective techniques, placed a barrel-vault over the nave (influenced by Alberti), and reworked the C9 chapel of San Satiro as a drum (embellished with pilasters and niches). He also planned, with Leonardo, a centralized arrangement at Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan (1490s), which has a drum with dome on pendentives rising over it.

The fall of the Sforzas forced Bramante to abandon Milan for Rome, where he designed the elegant cloisters of Santa Maria della Pace (1500–4) which were more refined than his earlier cloisters of Sant'Ambrogio, Milan (1492). The Pace cloisters have piers with Ionic pilasters and arcades (based on the Colosseum) carrying a continuous entablature with an inscription on the frieze, while above is an open colonnaded gallery with the columns set between piers and situated on the centre-line of each arch. Then (1502–10) came the astonishing Tempietto in the chiostro (cloister) of San Pietro in Montorio, a drum surmounted by a dome and surrounded by a peristyle of Tuscan columns carrying a Roman Doric entablature: the effect is graceful, serene, and Antique. Tuscan Doric was used because of its association with the strong masculine character of St Peter, on the supposed site of whose Martyrdom the Tempietto was erected. Indeed Serlio credited Bramante with adapting the Doric temple for Christian purposes, for Vitruvius, no less, had recommended Doric as appropriate for heroic, masculine deities. Circular plans were based upon Antique temples, but they also have important precedents in the martyria of Early Christian churches: thus Bramante, in this tiny building, linked Christian martyria, Roman circular temples, and Classical architecture in the first great building of the High Renaissance.

With the election of Pope Julius II (1503–13) Bramante acquired a patron with ambitions to build, and he drew up a plan for the Vatican and the Basilica of San Pietro. One range of buildings with three superimposed arcades was subsequently incorporated within the Cortile di San Damaso, and then came the vast Cortile del Belvedere of which only the spiral ramp (c.1505) remains relatively intact. However, the greatest work was the rebuilding of the Church of San Pietro. The huge Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople had fallen to Islam in the mid-C15, and it became politically and symbolically important to replace the Constantinian basilica (which was really a martyrium over the tomb of the Apostle) with a great centrally planned church. Bramante proposed a mighty Greek cross (with each arm terminating in an apse) in the corners of which would be four smaller Greek crosses (each covered by a minor dome), the centre covered by a dome to rival that of the Roman Pantheon, but carried on a huge colonnaded drum. Bramante's design was derived from the Tempietto, and he was designing a martyrium, with reference to Constantine's other foundations (the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity), and to the mathematical perfection of a centralized plan that symbolized the Perfection of God. The building was only partially begun when he and the Pope died, but the great piers of the crossing and the arches carry the dome of the present building.

His other works include the choir of Santa Maria del Pòpolo (1505–9), with a huge coffered vault and apse, and the Palazzo Caprini (House of Raphael) of 1508–9 which had (it has been virtually obliterated) an arcaded and heavily rusticated base, with coupled Tuscan Doric columns above, an arrangement that was greatly admired by Palladio (who drew the building), and was influential among later generations of architects, notably Burlington.


Ackerman (1954);
Bruschi (1977);
Heydenreich (1996);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Patetta (1987);
Serlio (1964);
Jane Turner (1996);
Vasari (1912–15)

Donato Bramante

views updated May 21 2018

Donato Bramante

The Italian architect and painter Donato Bramante (1444-1514) was the first High Renaissance architect. He transformed the classical style of the 15th century into a grave and monumental manner, which represented the ideal for later architects.

In the first decade of the 16th century Donato Bramante was the chief architect in Rome, which had just replaced Florence as the artistic capital of Europe because the patronage of Pope Julius II (reigned 1503-1513) attracted all the leading Italian artists to that city. It is particularly the triumvirate of artists—Michelangelo the sculptor and painter, Raphael the painter, and Bramante the architect— who dominated this period, usually called the High Renaissance, and whose influence overwhelmed the following generations.

Donato di Pascuccio d'Antonio, called Bramante, was born in 1444 at Monte Asdruvaldo near Urbino. Nothing is known of the first 30 years of his life. During that period, however, the court of Federigo da Montefeltro at Urbino was a flourishing humanistic and cultural center, attended by artists such as Piero della Francesca, Melozzo da Forll, and Luciano Laurana, who probably influenced the young Bramante. The first notice of Bramante dates from 1477, when he decorated the facade of the Palazzo del Podestàat Bergamo with a frescoed frieze of philosophers.

Lombard Style

In 1481 the engraver Bernardo Previdari issued at Milan a print after a design by Bramante, who had settled there about that time. The major interest of the engraving, which depicts the interior of a partially ruined church, is the careful perspective delineation of the architectural interior. Shortly thereafter Bramante entered into the service of the Sforza rulers of Lombardy as court architect. His first important commission was the reconstruction, beginning in 1482, of the church of S. Maria presso S. Satiro in Milan. As it was a basilica church with transept and dome over the crossing, there was not enough space for a deep choir. Through the ingenious use of sculptural and painted relief in perspective, Bramante feigned a choir. He also built a tall, octagonal sacristy richly decorated in the North Italian manner with relief sculpture covering even the shafts of the classical orders. Bramante also continued to paint, executing frescoes of armed men for the Casa Panigarola and the panel painting Christ at the Column.

In 1488 Bramante was called as consultant to the architects Amadeo and Cristoforo Rocchi for the building of the Cathedral of Pavia, but in 1492 he withdrew from the project with only the crypt completed. Meanwhile in 1490 he submitted an opinion on the project to complete thetiburio, or great crossing vault, of the Gothic Cathedral of Milan, in which he advocated a design conforming to the past style. Although there is no documentary proof, he presumably designed the large, square tribune with apsidal arms added to the Gothic church of S. Maria delle Grazie in Milan, beginning the work in 1492. The interior was made spacious and monumental, and the exterior was completed in the decorative Lombard style. At the same time Bramante began the Canons' Cloister of S. Ambrogio in Milan, whose southern wing alone was built; in 1497 he planned four more cloisters there, of which only the Doric and Ionic Cloisters were completed in the 16th century.

During 1493 Bramante was briefly and mysteriously absent from Milan, as letters of Duke Lodovico Sforza seeking him in Florence and Rome indicate, but Bramante soon returned to the ducal seat at Vigevano. He also wrote some sonnets at this time, which are preserved in a manuscript dated 1497.

Early Roman Style

When the French captured Milan in September 1499 Bramante fled to Rome, where he frescoed the arms of Pope Alexander VI at St. John Lateran, in preparation for the Holy Year of 1500, and explored the Roman antiquities. The impact of the ancient monuments is evident in his cloister of S. Maria della Pace in Rome (1500-1504). The simple gravity and monumentality of the small square court marks a distinct break with the Lombard style and foreshadows the new classicism of High Renaissance Rome. The ground-floor arcade is supported on piers with engaged Ionic pilasters; the upper floor alternates Corinthian columns and piers bearing an architrave.

The tiny circular Tempietto at S. Pietro in Montorio, in Rome (1502), with a Doric colonnade surrounding a small cella closed by a semicircular dome on a tall drum, represents the perfection of Bramante's Roman style. The architect intended the chapel to stand in the center of a circular, colonnaded court to emphasize its self-containment and centralization, but the court was never executed. The church of S. Maria della Consolazione (1504-1617) at Todi, probably executed after Bramante's design, is likewise centralized, being square with semicircular apses. The mass is built up of simple geometric forms capped by a drum and dome. The interior is characterized by a sense of quiet, harmonious spaciousness.

Papal Architecture and Late Works

With the election of Pope Julius II in 1503 Bramante soon became the papal architect, and he did extensive work in the Vatican Palace and began rebuilding St. Peter's. The tremendous Belvedere Court of the Palace (begun in 1503) was terraced up a hillside on three levels joined by monumental stairs and defined by arcaded loggias with superimposed orders. The lower terrace was to serve as a theater. Completed with many revisions in the late 16th century, it is now altered almost beyond recognition. Nearby is a spiral, ramped staircase (begun before 1512) that provides access to the statue court beyond the Belvedere Court. As a new facade for the Vatican Palace, Bramante designed a series of superimposed loggias (1509-1518), later converted into the Court of S. Damaso. Completed by Raphael, there are two superimposed arcades with Tuscan and Ionic pilasters and above them a colonnade of the Composite order.

In 1505 Bramante prepared a plan for the New St. Peter's which called for a centralized Greek cross with a large dome on a colonnaded drum at the crossing, four smaller domes, and corner towers. When the Greek cross plan was not accepted, he planned to lengthen one arm to form a nave and to add ambulatories in the apsidal arms. The foundation stone was laid in April 1506, but at the time of his death Bramante had erected only the four main piers and the arches which were to support the dome.

Bramante accompanied the Pope on the military campaigns to Bologna in 1506 and in 1510, and during the latter campaign he is reported to have entertained the Pope every evening with his commentary on the writings of Dante. In 1513 the Pope bestowed the office of Piombatore, or sealer of the papal briefs, on him. Bramante planned a huge palace on the Via Giulia for the papal courts of justice. It was begun in 1509, but with the death of the Pope in 1513 the work was abandoned, leaving only a few massive, rusticated blocks of the ground floor.

Bramante's last work was probably the Palazzo Caprini (after 1510; destroyed). It had a rusticated ground floor with shops and an upper story with coupled Doric half columns. Owned later by Raphael, it became the prototype for numerous palaces, especially in northern Italy, by Michele Sanmicheli, Giulio Romano, and Andrea Palladio. Bramante died on March 11, 1514, and was buried in Old St. Peter's.

Further Reading

There is no monograph on Bramante in English. A study in Italian is Arnaldo Bruschi, Bramante architetto (1969). Another useful work, in Italian, is Costantino Baroni, ed., Bramante (1944). An excellent study in English on an important Roman building is James S. Ackerman, The Cortile del Belvedere (1954). For background works on Renaissance architecture see Rudolf Wittkower, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (1949; 3d rev. ed. 1962), and Peter Murray, The Architecture of the Italian Renaissance (1963). □

Bramante, Donato (1444–1514)

views updated Jun 11 2018

Bramante, Donato (14441514)

Italian architect, a leading figure of the late Renaissance whose palaces, monuments, and church architecture were inspired by the ancient ruins of Rome. Born as Donato di Pascuccio d'Antonio, the son of a farmer in the village of Monte Asdruvaldo, in the central mountains of Italy, he may have first worked under the patronage of Federigo da Montefeltro, the duke of Urbino. As a young painter, he was influenced by Piero della Francesca and Andrea Mantegna. His first known commission was a painted frieze for the Palazzo del Podesta in the city of Bergamo, which he completed in 1477. By the 1480s, he was living in Milan and working as the court architect of Ludovico Sforza. He was commissioned to decorate the Church of Santa Maria Presso San Satiro in Milan, in which he created a trompe l'oeil (trick of the eye) choir through the use of deep perspective. Bramante designed the cloisters (enclosed courtyards) for the Sant'Ambrogio church, and with Leonardo da Vinci he also worked on the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. He then traveled to Pavia, where he assisted in the design of the city's cathedral.

In 1499, Bramante fled Milan when a French army besieged and conquered the city, overthrowing the Sforza dynasty. He traveled to Rome, where he made a close study of the city's ancient ruins. The monumental architecture of the classical city influenced his design for the cloisters of Santa Maria della Pace, which he completed in 1504. In 1502 he designed the Tempietto, a small circular chapel in the courtyard of the Church of San Pietro in Montorio. This elegant and simple building was designed as a monument to Saint Peter, who was martyred on the spot. Its careful proportions give it a feeling of serenity and balance; the Tempietto has been studied by architects ever since as a perfect imitation of the antique style and one of the most famous buildings of the Renaissance.

Under the patronage of the popes, Rome was becoming a leading center of Renaissance art. Pope Julius II engaged Bramante as his official architect and put him in charge of the rebuilding of Saint Peter's Cathedral and working on the Vatican Palace. Bramante redesigned the facade of the palace as well as the Belvedere Court, which was built in a series of staircases and loggias (covered passageways) that run along a terraced hillside. Since the Belvedere was raised, however, later designs all but destroyed Bramante's original composition, and only a spiral staircase survives to the present day intact.

In 1505 Bramante prepared a design for Saint Peter's, intended to be the greatest basilica of Christendom and a worthy successor to the great Pantheon, a stillintact monument of ancient Rome. Bramante initially created Saint Peter's in the shape of a Greek cross, as a tribute to the fallen city of Constantinople and its Hagia Sophia cathedral. Work began in the next year but progressed slowly as the design was altered. Bramante and Julius became close companions and the pope bestowed on his favorite architect the office of piombatore, the aide responsible for sealing the pope's letters and documents. Some time after 1510 Bramante designed the Palazzo Caprini in the center of Rome, a building Bramante designed as his own dwelling and which was later acquired by the painter Raphael. The Palazzo Caprini contained a first floor of simple city shops and higher stories designed as an aristocratic palace. The design of the palace disappeared under later additions and alterations but the building served as a model for many Roman buildings in the following centuries. Bramante died in 1514; at Saint Peter's only four columns and arches meant to support a huge central dome were in place at the time of his death. The completion of the work was assigned to Michelangelo Buonarroti, who completed the monumental dome that has since become a familiar landmark of the Vatican and the city of Rome.

See Also: architecture; Julius II; Michelangelo Buonarroti

Donato Bramante

views updated May 14 2018

Donato Bramante


Italian architect who launched the High Renaissance style in architecture. Bramante was born in Monte Asdruald (now Fermignano), near Urbino. Details of his early life are sketchy, but it is known that at an early age he studied painting under the Italian masters Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) and Piero della Francesca (1420?-1492). Bramante later relocated to Milan, where he is believed to have shared discussions on architectural style with Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). Bramante completed several structures in Milan before moving to Rome in 1499. His architecture was characterized by its use of illusion, which was more commonplace in painting than in building design. In 1503, Bramante entered into the service of Pope Julius II (1443-1513) and two years later began work on his greatest achievement, the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome. His other major projects included the Belvedere courtyard in the Vatican (begun c. 1505), and the choir of Santa Maria del Popolo.

Bramante, Donato

views updated May 23 2018

Bramante, Donato (1444–1514) Italian architect and painter. He is best known as the greatest exponent of High Renaissance architecture. His first building, Santa Maria presso San Satiro in Milan (c.1481), uses perspective to give an illusion of deeply receding space in the choir. In 1506, he started rebuilding St Peter's, Rome. His influence was enormous and many Milanese painters took up his interest in perspective and trompe l'oeil.