Renaissance Revival FURNITURE.......................Illustrated Architecture Dictionary

Renaissance / Renaissance Revival Architecture Styles

Table of contents:

Renaissance - 15th century

First Renaissance Revival - 1840-1890

Second Renaissance Revival - 1890-1920

See also:

Commercial Renaissance Revival

Renaissance Revival FURNITURE

Renaissance and Reformation Stained Glass Windows


Renaissance style - 15th-17th centuries

The architectural style developed in early 15th century Italy during the rebirth (rinascimento) of classical art and learning.

The Renaissance period in Europe, from the 15th century to about the end of the 17th century, when art, architecture , philosophy and literature had a had a rebirth based on class Greek and Roman models. For example, see Putto.

Renaissance in Italy: The intellectual movement began in the 14th century with the writings of Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio.

Vitruvius's Treatise on Architecture, originally written in the time of Augustus, was issued in Rome in Latin, in 1486, and translated into Italian in 1621. This became one of the bibles of Renaissance architecture, and through it, of design.

Initially characterized by the use of classical orders (e.g., Doric), round arches, and symmetrical composition.

It succeeded the Gothic as the style dominant in all of Europe after the mid-16th century, and evolved throughout the Mannerist phase into Baroque.

Florence windows: 3 types:

Renaissance Palaces of Florence

The secular nature of the Renaissance - the triumph of Humanism even in the Catholic South - finds a symbol in the villa and the palace, not least the palaces of Florence, The palaces were built in the middle years of the fifteenth century for such princely and mercantile families as the Strozzi, as well as Medici (Medici-Riccardi), the Pitti, and the Pandolfini. They vary in detail but conform to type:

  • Unlike the villas which were set among the fountains and cypresses of the surrounding hills, these palaces arc fundamentally urban.

  • Each fills a city block.

  • Each is built right up to the street frontage, presenting a cliff of masonry to the outer world.

  • Each has an internal courtyard of shaded and colonnaded charm.

  • Each relegates to the ground floor such subordinate things as offices, stables, kitchens and guard rooms.

  • The bottom floor was constructed of rusticated stone to suggest a firm foundation and impenetrable defenses. Higher floors were formed from smooth ashlar blocks, with the joints hardly perceptible, to represent the refinement of the living area. The overall effect emphasizes that the building appears progressively lighter as the eye moves upward.

  • Ground floor rooms often have quite small windows to the street, covered with heavy grilles. The grilles themselves, as in the case of the Palazzo Pitti, were often fine works of art, their metallic quality being a foil to the rusticated stonework.

  • Mullioned windows were popular.

  • Each palace has great suites of state apartments on the first floor - the piano nobile (second story in US) - with coved and painted ceilings. Externally this gives a splendid area of blank wall above each range of windows.

  • Each palace has a crowning cornice; that of the Palazzo Strozzi overhangs the street by more than seven feet, casting a mighty shadow.

  • The façades, while having scale and dignity, were austere.

  • Often the greatest enrichment was the craggy character of the rusticated masonry or, as in the Alberti's Palazzo Rucellai, very flat pilasters.

What is mote important than individual façades is the fact that here had been created a new urban type, which was to be found throughout the centuries in the Georgian square, the Pall Mall clubs, the Wall Street bank. The wealthy businessman, now neither a churchman nor a feudal lord, had found his architectural symbol. Moreover, the modern street, the "corridor" of stone frontages, had, for better or worse, been invented.

Renaissance in France: In France, the Renaissance was introduced during the reign of Francis I.

Francis I and the French Renaissance

Paris, as the capital of the newly consolidated Kingdom of France and as the center of the brilliant court of Francis I, attained preeminence in art and literature. This resulted in the adoption of one national architectural style which emanated from Paris and the schools in the vicinity; while the valley of the Loire became a highway along which, in response to new social conditions, the famous chateaux of kings and courtiers sprang up and formed models for other parts of the country.

This influence was largely augmented by the presence, at the court and in the schools, of such Italian artists as Leonardo da Vinci, CeUini, Serlio, Vignola, Rosso, Primaticcio, and Cortona, and was further spread by Italian craftsmen who, traveling from place to place in the district south of the Loire, there erected many picturesque buildings.

The kingly power was gradually becoming absolute, owing largely to the policy of Cardinal Richelieu and his successor, Mazarin,in the reign of Louis XIII (1610-43).

- A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method, by Sir Banister-Fletcher, New York, 1950

Renaissance in England: In England, the Renaissance began in the reign of Elizabeth I, during which Inigo Jones introduced the Italian Palladian style into England.


Renaissance style - 15th-17th centuries - examples:


First Renaissance Revival style - 1840-1890
Victorian substyle

Renaissance Revival - 1840-1890

Buildings in the Renaissance Revival style show a definite studied formalism. The tightly contained cube is a symmetrical composition of early sixteenth century Italian elements.

Characteristics include finely cut
ashlar that may be accentuated with rusticated quoins, architrave framed windows, and doors supporting entablatures or pediments.

Each sash may have several lights or just one.

A belt or string course may divide the ground or first floor from the upper floors.

Smaller square windows indicate the top or upper story.

- Identifying American Architecture, by John J.-G. Blumenson. New York: Norton. 1981, p.


Second (Italian) Renaissance Revival 1890-1920
Beaux Arts substyle

A later revival of Renaissance-inspired design in American houses occurred from about 1890-1930 and was the purest in its resemblance to the Italian originals. The period benefited from first hand familiarity with original models, improved printing technology for photographic documentation, and perfected masonry veneering techniques after W.W.I      

At first, this style was relatively rare, found mostly in architect-designed landmark houses.  By about 1920, the technique of veneering a single layer of brick or stone onto the outside of wood framed walls had been perfected leading to smaller and less costly Italian Renaissance designs that were popular in suburban neighborhoods.     

One of the architects who popularized the style was Richard Morris Hunt (1827-1895), the first American to study at the prestigious L'Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Hunt was one of the architects who designed buildings for the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago where the style received great publicity.

The Italian Renaissance style was much less common than the more popular Tudor and Colonial Revival styles of the period.  The style declined steadily in popularity through the 1930s, and post-1940 examples are rare.

Identifying features of the Italian Renaissance:

Second Renaissance Revival 1890-1920

Scale and size distinguish the later Revival from the earlier Renaissance Revival.

Large buildings - usually three tall stories - are organized into distinct horizontal divisions by pronounced belt or string courses.

Each floor is articulated differently. If the Doric Order or rustication is used on the first floor then the upper floor will be treated with a different order and finish.

The window trim or surround also usually changes from floor to floor. Additional floors are seen in the small mezzanine or entresol windows.

Arcades and arched openings often are seen in the same building with straight-headed or pedimented openings. Enriched and projecting cornices are supported with large modillions or consoles. The roof often is highlighted with a balustrade.

In turning to larger Renaissance buildings for models, architects working in this style opened the door for greater size, textural richness, and variety in form. The style well suited the grandiosity required by a very rich client like Cornelius Vanderbilt, who commissioned The Breakers, in Newport, Rhode Island.

- Identifying American Architecture, by John J.-G. Blumenson. New York: Norton. 1981, p. 41


Renaissance Revival 1895-1920

Late-nineteenth- century revivals are larger, grander, and more elaborate than earlier nineteenth-century style revivals. They tend to be stately rather than exciting, "correct" rather than daring.

Characteristic of the Renaissance [Revival] are arched openings, rusticated masonry laid with deep joints to give the appearance of massiveness, and strong horizontal lines. Cornices are finely detailed and moldings are crisply drawn.

- A Field Guide to American Architecture, by Carole Rifkind. New York: New American Library, 1980, p.220

Italian Renaissance Revival

The Italian Renaissance revival, directly inspired by the great Renaissance houses of Italy, was one of the most popular of the Beaux Arts design modes, lasting from the the 1800s until the 1920s.

While the Victorian Italianate was essentially a loose interpretation of Italian architecture, drawn primarily from pattern books, the Italian Renaissance revival took a much more academic approach, with design features often copied directly from actual Renaissance landmarks, Roman, Florentine, and Venetian prototypes - ducal palazzi or county villas - were translated into American "palaces," primarily in cities such as New York and fashionable resorts like Newport, Rhode Island.

- The Visual Dictionary of American Domestic Architecture, by Rachel Carley. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1994, p. 179


Second Renaissance Revival examples from Buffalo:


Second Renaissance Revival other examples:


Photos and their arrangement © 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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