Cortona, Pietro Berrettini da

views updated May 14 2018

Cortona, Pietro Berrettini da (1596–1669). With Bernini and Borromini, one of the great masters of Roman Baroque. Trained as a painter, Cortona settled in Rome around 1611, where he was patronized by the Sacchettis, for whom he designed the Palazzetto del Pigneto (1626–36). Although the building no longer exists, it made his reputation at the time, for it was approached through a series of ramps and terraces leading up to the entrance exedra, a design influenced, no doubt, by the Roman temple of Fortuna at Palestrina (Praeneste), and containing other Antique allusions, including semicircular apses screened by columns and derived from Roman thermae. The façade was one of the first curved fronts in Rome. He came to the notice of Cardinal Francesco Barberini(1597–1679), for whom he created the sensational Baroque ceiling-fresco (completed 1639) in the saloon of the Palazzo Barberini. His first church was Sts Luca e Martina (1634–69) in the Forum: the central part of the front has a convex plan, and columns are sunk into the wall in the manner of Michelangelo's Laurentian library-vestibule in Florence. Inside the church (a Greek cross on plan) the walls are articulated by means of Ionic columns and pilasters (the capitals are of the angular type), giving a unity to the entire composition enhanced by the lack of colour (the interior is painted white).

Under Pope Alexander VII (1655–67) da Cortona built two of the finest Baroque church façades in Rome. The front of Santa Maria della Pace (1656–9) has a half-elliptical porch of paired Tuscan columns and an upper storey with a recessed convex central section: the plastic qualities recall Michelangelo at his Mannerist best. Da Cortona carried the main elements of the façade over the adjacent buildings, creating a unified piazza resembling a theatre with boxes, with the church-front appearing as the backdrop. With the façade of Santa Maria in Via Lata (1658–62) in the Corso, da Cortona achieved a deceptive simplicity and grandeur with an in antis (see anta) porch and an upper storey featuring an arch continuing the profile of the entablature. The design was reminiscent of elements from Diocletian's Palace at Spalato and the temples at Baalbek.


Briganti (1962);
Norberg-Schulz (1986);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Jane Turner (1996);
Varriano (1986);
Wittkower (1982)