The Early Origins of the Renaissance Palace

Lorenzo Vigotti | Postdoctoral Fellow

The Italian palazzo is among the emerging typologies that, in the early fifteenth century, revolutionized the architecture and the urban fabric of the European cities, with long-lasting effects, up until the colonial period. Thus, in the Western tradition, it arrived to coincide with the very image of the Renaissance and its new bourgeois lifestyle.
My post-doctoral research aims to demonstrate that the design of the widely-recognized prototype of this new typology (the palace built for the Medici in 1446) is in fact the result of a continuous transformation that took place over the preceding seven decades, thus showing that most of its presumed innovations, both in spatial organization and its novel lifestyle adaptations, long predate its construction. The most direct consequence of this conclusion is to reconsider, and partially question, the primacy of the antiquarian model for the creation of the palazzo typology and for the architectural theory of the time, such as the works of Leon Battista Alberti, which, I argue, should be based on domestic examples built during the period of the Albizi oligarchy (1382-1432). In addition to architectural analysis (the dimensions, styles, functions, and decorations of domestic spaces), I am interested in how patrons used their residences to declare their political aspirations, their desire to control the private sphere of their households, and the examples (both architectural and literary) they were referring to.
Accordingly, my study aims to contribute to the broader discussion started within architectural historiography of the late middle ages and Renaissance showing an indisputable continuity between the two periods, therefore challenging assumptions of a distinct separation.


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