MICHELANGELO Buonarroti
(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)

Palazzo Farnese: Courtyard

1517-50
Photo
Piazza Farnese, Rome

In 1517, Cardinal Alessandro Farnese acquired a palace in the centre of Rome and decided to rebuild it from the designs of Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, an imaginative architect, the nephew of Giuliano and Antonio the Elder. That it is the most majestic and influential of all Roman Renaissance palaces is due to the combined efforts of Antonio and Michelangelo who completed the building after the death of Antonio in 1546.

Antonio's courtyard of the Palazzo Farnese would have been conventional - a grand reproduction of the superimposed orders of the Colosseum, but Michelangelo redesigned the third story to create a different effect. He carried out Antonio's second, Ionic story with only minor changes. In the third story he abandoned engaged columns, substituting pilasters on lofty bases. Each pilaster is flanked by half-pilasters, and these clustered pilasters introduce a new organic richness to the static architectural elements designed by Antonio.

In the disposition of architectural orders in the courtyard, inspired by the external ambulatory of the theatre of Marcellus, Antonio demonstrated his maturity, sensitivity and originality as an architect.

View the ground plan of Palazzo Farnese, Rome.