SANMICHELI, Michele
(b. 1584, Verona, d. 1559, Verona)

Biography

Italian architect. He learnt the elements of his profession from his father Giovanni and his uncle Bartolomeo, who both practiced successfully as builder-architects in Verona. He was a salaried official of the Republic of Venice, his commissions lay in Venetian territories outside Venice; he was no less distinguished as a military architect, and was employed in strengthening Venetian fortifications in Crete, Candia, Dalmatia and Corfu as well as a great fort at the Lido, guarding the sea entrance to the Venetian lagoon. In visiting Cyprus and Crete for the Serenissima Sanmicheli is probably the only practicing Venetian architect of the sixteenth century to have had the opportunity to see Greek architecture, a possible source for his use of Roman Doric columns without bases.

He went at an early age to Rome, probably to work as an assistant to Antonio da Sangallo the Elder, where he had opportunities to study classic sculpture and architecture. In 1509 he went to Orvieto where he practiced for the next two decades. Among his earliest works are the first design of the duomo of Montefiascone, initiated in 1519, an octagonal building surmounted with a dome, and the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie; at Orvieto he designed and built the funerary chapel for the Petrucci family in the gothic church of San Domenico; several palazzi at both places are attributed to him.

Sanmicheli was in Verona by 1527. He proceeded from the traditions of Bramante, enriching the elder architect's system of orders with complex ornamental details. He also designed innovative models for palazzi. Their major dynamic element was the composition of their stately facades, which displayed rich sculptural forms while adhering to strict architectural principals. Sanmicheli's constructions in Verona largely determined that city's appearance. He built three palazzi in Verona that have been central to his reputation: the Palazzo Pompei (probably begun around 1530), the Palazzo Canossa (under construction in 1537), and the Palazzo Bevilacqua (under construction in 1529), the most famous of the three and often cited as an exemplar of Mannerism in architecture. One of Sanmicheli's most graceful designs is the Cappella Pellegrini in the church of San Bernardino at Verona, where the cylindrical exterior masks a domed interior that rearranges elements of the Pantheon. Beside the Ponte Nuovo in Verona (demolished in the late 19th century), his last work, begun in 1559, was the Santuario di Madonna di Campagna (or Santa Maria della Pace), formerly outside Verona on the road to Venice.

Sanmicheli also built structures in Orvieto and Venice (Palazzo Grimani, 1556-72).