Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, Michelozzo di Bartolommeo begun 1444 (elongated in the 17th century by the Riccardi family)

The exterior of the building is a fake or faux finish.  The stringsourses of brickwork you see on its facade covers the real suporting structure underneath.  With the exception of the arches, that were later filled in, almost none of the exterior ornamentation serves a structural purpose.  The exterior of the building is almost like a drawing. 
It is divided into three distinct levels.  Each level is defined by the level of relief of the masonry facade on the exterior.  At the top of the structure, you can see that the level of relief is actually quite low as you move to the center course it is a bit more etched deeply.  By the bottom course the rustification is quite pronounced.
Iconography:  The use of the arches refers to antiquity and is a way of giving the building some "class."  The rustification serves two purposes.  It makes the building look taller than it is by playing with the illusion of space.  It's almost like a sculptural version of atmospheric perspective.  The further the courses are from the ground, the less the detail.  The rustification of the lower courses also serves to make the structure look more fortress like.  It looks thicker and tougher and also mimics some of the Classical ruins found throughout Italy.
Context: 
Michelozzo di Bartolommeo b. 1396, Florence d. 1472, Florence 
in full MICHELOZZO DI BARTOLOMMEO, MICHELOZZO also spelled MICHELOZZI, architect and sculptor, notable in the development of Florentine Renaissance architecture.
Michelozzo studied with the celebrated sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti, in whose workshop he acquired the skills of a bronze founder. After 1420 they collaborated on the "St. Matthew" for the church of Or San Michele, Florence. In 1427 Michelozzo and the sculptor Donatello established a partnership, active until 1438, to build several architectural-sculptural tombs. They also collaborated on the pulpit (designed 1428) in Prato cathedral.
Throughout his career Michelozzo was closely associated with his principal patrons, the Medicis, and he followed Cosimo de' Medici into exile at Venice in 1433. Upon Cosimo's triumphant return to power in Florence in 1434, Michelozzo's architectural career began in earnest with several important commissions. In 1436 he began the complete rebuilding of the ruined monastery of San Marco at Florence. The elegant library he built for the monastery became the model for subsequent libraries throughout 15th-century Italy. In 1444-45 he directed the similar reconstruction of the large complex of church buildings at Santissima Annunziata, also in Florence. Michelozzo also temporarily succeeded Filippo Brunelleschi as architect for the cathedral of Florence upon the latter's death in 1446.
Michelozzo produced several innovations in the design of the Florentine palazzo, or palace. The basic plan called for a blocklike structure, usually three stories high, with a central open court. On the exterior the three stories were separated by horizontal string courses, and the rustication of the stonework was different in each story. The building was capped by a bold overhanging cornice. These features are outstanding in the palazzo that Michelozzo built in Florence for Cosimo de' Medici (1444-59; now called the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi), one of the finest examples of early Renaissance architecture.
In his later years Michelozzo restored several villas for the Medicis and worked as an engineer in Ragusa (now Dubrovnik, Croatia) and on the Greek island of Chios.
Brittanica
 

Links
Procession of the Magi in the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi in Florence (1459-60)
http://web.kyoto-inet.or.jp/org/orion/eng/hst/renais/medici.html