Study Aid 8: Italian Mannerism

Around 1520, Italian architecture began to depart from the clarity, balance and perfection typical of the High Renaissance. As the century progressed, more and more architects seemed to be willing to bend the "rules" that had been so avidly sought by previous generation. Whether this new willfullness in design arose from boredom or imagination is hard to tell, but as in the late Gothic era, design in the late Renaissance was often (but not always) increasingly lush and exuberant. This third period of the Renaissance is often called Mannerism by historians (although this remains a point of controversy) and it remained popular until Italian design evolved into the more expressive Baroque around 1600. Mannerism can be characterized by the sophisticated use of motifs in deliberate exaggeration or opposition to their original significance or context. It is particularly noticeable in distortions of accepted forms and scales.

Michelangelo's breathtaking creativity provided the first evidence of Mannerism in architecture works such as: the Laurentian Library at San Lorenzo, Florence, (1524-1559, patron: Clement III), with its flowing monumental stair and eccentric use of certain classical forms; the Medici chapel (New Sacristy), also at San Lorenzo, 1520-; and his work on St. Peter's and the Campidoglio in Rome. Other Mannerist buildings include: Baldassare Peruzzi's Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne, Rome, 1534; and the Villa Giulia for Pope Julius III, with its multi-level garden pavilion containing a nymphaeum, Rome, 1550-, Giacomo da Vignola, Bartolommeo Amannati,et al. architects.. The influential church of II Gesu, Rome, 1568-1584, was begun by Vignola, but was finished by Giacomo della Porta who designed its complex, layered facade. Perhaps the most remarkable Mannerist building is the Palazzo del Te, a large and whimsical suburban villa built for Federigo Gonzaga (the Duke of Mantua) outside of Mantua by Guilio Romano, 1527-1534. The building has many visual jokes of tricks such as the "falling" triglyphs.

Laurentian Library

Date: 1524-1559
Location: Florence, Italy
Architect: Michelangelo
Patron: Clement III


Section & Plan


Exterior View of Vestibule


Staircase in Vestibule


Vestibule - Corner Details


Staircase in Vestibule


View of Vestibule


Interior View of Library

Palazzo del Te

Date: 1527-1534 AD
Location: Mantua, Italy
Architect: Romano
Patron: Duke Federigo Gonzaga




Detail of Courtyard with "Slipping" Triglyphs and "Cracking" Pediments

Detail with Falling Triglyphs


West (Front) Elevation


Vestibule in West Wing with Rustic Columns

East Wing Porch


Detail of West (Front) Elevation


East Elevation of Courtyard


North Elevation of Courtyard


Interior View of the Hall of the Giants