- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Academy Press; 2 edition (November 4, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0471977632
- ISBN-13: 978-0471977636
- Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 0.4 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,931,470 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism 2nd Edition
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Rudolf Wittkower Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism 'Scores have profited from, and been inspired by, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism and its lesson of the importance of consistent modular relations. No other book on the subject of architectural history written by scholars of his generation has had such a creative effect on men in practice.' Nikolaus Pevsner, Foreword to Art and Architecture in Italy 'Professor Wittkower's mind is not only inquiring but immensely well stored and tenacious. His studies of humanist architecture are masterpieces of scholarship.' Sir Kenneth Clark, Architectural Review 'To say that this is the best study of Italian Renaissance architecture in English is faint praise.' John Coolidge, Magazine of Art Since its original publication in 1949, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism has acquired the status of a classic, having brought to light, through exemplary scholarship, the connections between the architecture and the culture of the Renaissance. Focusing on the work of the main Renaissance architects from Alberti to Palladio, Rudolf Wittkower has produced definitive explanations of the true significance of certain architecture forms, and has at the same time revealed the limitations of a purely aesthetic theory of Renaissance architecture. This fifth edition of Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism, intended to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of the book, integrates the illustrations with the text and includes an edited selection of lectures on Proportion by Professor Wittkower.
About the Author
Rudolf Wittkower was born in Berlin in 1901. Leaving Germany when the Nazis came to power, he was one of the animators of the Warburg Institute of London. In 1941 he organized, with Fritz Saxl, the exhibition British Art and the Mediterranean, the publication of which (1948) forms an important document of the aims and methods of the Warburg Institute. A great scholar of Italian Renaissance and Baroque art, Wittkower taught at both the University of London and Columbia University. His books, all important works of scholarship, include Die Zeichnungen des Gian Lorenzo Bernini (with H. Bruer, 1931), The Drawings of the Carracci at Windsor Castle (1952), Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the Sculptor of Roman Baroque (1955), Art and Architecture in Italy, 1600-1750 (1958), Born under Saturn (with Margot Wittkower, 1963), and Divine Michelangelo: The Florentine Academy's Homage on His Death in 1564 (with Margot Wittkower, 1964). In addition, he was a frequent contributor to the Journal of the Warbung and Courtauld Institute, the Art Bulletin, Burlington Magazine and the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, among others.
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To embrace the pretence that,' As man is the image of God and the proportions of his body are produced by divine will, so the proportions in architecture have to embrace and express the cosmic order', is to entertain a thought that may sit uneasily in the minds of some, as the basis of such an idea is undergoing much debate and scrutiny in recent times. Not only does this highlight the seismic shift in worldviews since the Renaissance, but also a progression of thought since the publishing of this book in 1949. Nonetheless, it is necessary to do so in an attempt to embrace the cultural expression of this ideology in the built environment of Renaissance Italy.
Temporarily shifting ones mindset to consider the adaption of harmonic proportion to the built environment is an intriguing exercise as,' for Alberti, harmonic ratios inherent in nature are revealed in music. The architect who relies on those harmonies is not translating musical ratios into architecture, but is making use of a universal harmony apparent to music.' In my view, this clarification of the role of harmonic proportion in architecture, appropriately deciphers the reality of the idea from the abstract analysis. A further definition offered by Gafurio, `Harmony is discord concordant', seeks to satisfy our desire for order over chaos, a justification of the macrocosm in the microcosm, and vice versa. As pointed out by Wittkower,' the process of atomization led, of course to a re-orientation in the field of aesthetics and, implicitly, of proportion'. With a constant interchange of new emerging ideas from Hogarth to Burke, Wittkower sets forth a strong opposition to the relationship between visual proportions and audible harmony.
The ongoing argument enveloped in this book invoked contemplation of its subject throughout its consumption, I was left digesting in particular the final chapter and the contrasting views on proportion it en sued. On a more critical note, the density of material Wittkower uses to encapsulate the work of Alberti and Palladio, in contrast to the passive discussion of the alternate views that have since emerged, leaves this read peculiarly unbalanced in my opinion.
Of special importance is part four 'The Problem of Harmonic Proportion in Architecture' (p. 101) where the author made the salient point that "Although the Pythagoreo-Platonic concept of the numerical ratios of the musical scale never disappeared from mediaeval [sic], theological, philosophical, and aesthetic thought, there was no over-riding need to apply them to art and architecture" (p. 159).
Rudolf Wittkower unknowingly provided in part four the distinction between an elite Quadrivium education containing Boethian "mathematical arts" while "the 'liberal arts' of painting, sculpture, and architecture were regarded as manual occupations" (p. 117). The author explained "That the high Renaissance architects shunned theory" and "that they were practitioners rather than thinkers" (p. 30). And further "Italian architects strove for an easily perceptible ratio between length, height, and depth" (p. 74). So then according to this author, all of the Renaissance architects conception of architecture was based on a "commensurability of ratios" (p. 108).
Rudolf Wittkower indicated "that the [Renaissance] architect is by no means free to apply to a building a system of ratios of his own choosing, that the ratios have to comply with conceptions of a higher order and that a building should mirror the proportions of the human body" (p. 101). In developing the centrally planned church, Renaissance architects faced the dilemma of the pragmatics of church construction combined with the belief in divinity and the acceptance of Roman Catholic dogma.
The Church was to provide the "easily perceptible ratio" with the simple logic that "As man is the image of God and the proportions of his body are produced by divine will, so the proportions in architecture have to embrace and express the cosmic order" (p. 101). That cosmic order and harmony are contained in certain numbers Plato explained in his TIMAEUS.
Assigned to the architects, a Quadrivium trained Roman Catholic friar and musical theorist, Franchino Gaffurio (1451-1522) "in a truly Platonic spirit he regarded this principle of harmony as the basis of macrocosm and microcosm, body and soul, painting, architecture, and medicine" (p. 124). It was under this famous Renaissance musical theorist in 1525 that "the old belief in the mysterious efficacy of certain numbers and ratios was given new impetus" (p. 102). "It was Pythagoras who discovered that tones can be measured in space. What he found was that musical consonances were determined by the ratios of small whole numbers. If two strings are made to vibrate under the same conditions, one being half the length of the other, the pitch of the shorter string will be one octave (diapason) above that of the larger one" (p. 102). "Thus the consonances, on which the Greek musical system was based - octave, fifth, and fourth - can be expressed by the progression 1:2:3:4. One can understand that this staggering discovery made people believe that they had seized upon the mysterious harmony which pervades the universe" (p. 103).
"The musical consonances are determined by the mean proportionals; for that the three means constitute all the intervals of the musical scale had been shown in the TIMAEUS. Classical writers on musical theory discussed this point at great length. An exhaustive exposition is to be found in Boethius' DE MUSICA, first printed in Venice in 1491-92, and of very great importance for the doctrine of numbers throughout the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance" (p. 111).
Yet Boethius's DE MUSICA was de-emphasized by Renaissance architects in recognition that the "harmony of the universe which Plato had described in the TIMAEUS on the basis of Pythagora's discovery of the ratios of musical consonances" prompted the "application of Pythagoreo-Platonic system of harmonic ratios directly to architecture" (p. 125). As it turned out (not surprisingly) "Gafurio [sic] was regarded by his contemporaries as a critic in architectural matters" (p. 125).
The author of ARCHITECTURAL PRINCIPLES IN THE AGE OF HUMANISM provided the evidence that although the Quadrivium of the mathematical arts of music, astronomy, geometry, and Boethian proportion and ratio, was known to the Renaissance high architects, they preferred the 'harmonic proportion'; 'proportion of excess'; and the 'proportio proportionum'; derived directly from Plato's TIMAEUS and Pythagoras's three means (arithmetic, geometric, and the harmonic) over Boethius's DE MUSICA, though it was a substantial part of friar Gaffurio's ecclesiastical education. This resulted in "proportionally integrated 'spatial mathematics', which we have recognized as a distinguishing feature of humanist Renaissance architecture" (p. 26).
In comparison, for the practical application of Boethian proportion and ratios, please read: THE PHILOSOPHER'S GAME (2001) by Dr. Ann E. Moyer, where the rules of Boethian proportion found in rithmomachia, had been clearly defined, though inadvertently, by Rudolf Wittkower.
I can summarize the book in one sentence: Proportion is important in architecture.