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Baldassare Peruzzi 1481-1536.

Christoph L. Frommel, Arnaldo Bruschi, Howard Burns, Francesco Paolo Fiore, and Pier Nicola Pagliara, eds. Baldassare Peruzzi 1481-1536.

Venice: Marsilio, 2005. vii + 668 pp. + 181 b/w pls. $83.95. ISBN: 88-317-8495-1.

This volume is the outcome of a seminar on Baldassare Peruzzi organized by the Centro Internazionale degli Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio in 2001. The collection of twenty-seven essays by leading European and American scholars, surveying the full spectrum of Peruzzi's artistic and scholarly endeavors, offers the latest interpretations of an enigmatic Renaissance figure whose career resists simple categorization.

Organizing a volume of essays highlights the problem of separating Peruzzi's complex and shifting career into discrete phases. A strict chronological format would place undue weight upon Peruzzi's later work; as Christoph Frommel notes, Peruzzi's reputation in Renaissance architectural history rests primarily upon the designs he prepared in the last six years of his life. However, separating essays by medium, such as architecture, archeology, sculpture, and painting, would also contrast with Peruzzi's interdisciplinary and wide-ranging approach. Thus, the editors have selected a more fluid organizational scheme, without formal subdivisions. The sequence of essays is only approximately chronological, inviting the individual reader to identify unifying themes.

Given the brief length of this review, I will limit my comments to a few representative essays. Frommel's introductory chapter provides the essential chronological framework upon which to hang the successive articles; he emphasizes Peruzzi's lifelong preoccupation with gaining a better understanding of antiquity, culminating in the designs for splendid trabeated classical architecture such as the vestibule and court for the Palazzo Massimo in Rome. Francesco Paolo Fiore addresses Peruzzi's artistic formation in Siena, emphasizing the importance of his late-Gothic Sienese predecessor Francesco di Giorgio Martini, and challenging Vasari's lingering criticism that Peruzzi was a professional failure by citing Peruzzi's substantial Sienese salary. Elena Svalduz further reminds us that Vasari's very different vantage point as a court artist would have caused him to view Peruzzi's independent trajectory with perplexity.

An important group of essays focuses upon Peruzzi's distinctive archeological approach and concerns. Peruzzi's archeological research was evidently facilitated by his membership in social circles, as discussed by Vitale Zanchettin, who demonstrates that Peruzzi's work for the confraternity of San Rocco enabled him to conduct archeological investigations at the Mausoleum of Augustus. Other studies examine Peruzzi's numerous virtuoso drawings of archeological remains. Ann Huppert identifies an "empirical" approach in Peruzzi's drawings from Terracina that is very different from the idealized reconstructions of Raphael and his followers, while Pierre Gros notes Peruzzi's exceptional precision in his systematic use of axonometric drawings and ancient Roman dimensions. Paolo Fancelli's essay on the Villa Trivulzio at Salone elaborates how Peruzzi's archeological sensibility informed his designs for new construction; here, as well as at ancient monuments such as the Theater of Marcellus or the Baths of Agrippa, Peruzzi demonstrated a remarkable knack for adaptive reuse, skillfully manipulating disparate existing structures to synthesize old and new.

Peruzzi's design innovations were extremely wide-ranging, as demonstrated by essays which consider his designs for tombs, villas, military fortifications, and ecclesiastical structures, including his work on St Peter's Basilica. As Arnaldo Bruschi observes, while no trace of this work is visible in the Basilica as it stands today, this was an unparalleled opportunity for Peruzzi's own artistic creativity and development.

Additional essays investigate Peruzzi's interest in refining and improving existing drawing methods; for example, Jehane Kuhn presents Peruzzi's project of simplifying the architectural perspective techniques originating in Piero della Francesca's perspective treatise. It seems clear that Peruzzi was interested in making his original and sophisticated research accessible to a larger audience, as discussed by Valeria Annecchino in her study of Peruzzi's academic duties at the University of Siena. Certainly Peruzzi's projected architectural treatise would have offered an unprecedented source of knowledge distilled from these lifelong research projects.

The collected essays, with their range of subjects and approaches, will appeal to those interested in any aspect of Peruzzi's interdisciplinary activities. They provide a critical benchmark for all Peruzzi studies, and offer exciting new directions for future scholarly research.


Pennsylvania State University
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Author:Karmon, David
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 22, 2006
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