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.

Andrea Palladio, 1508-1580, an Italian Renaissance architect,  ranks among the most influential architects of all time, primarily because of his 4-volume book, The Architecture of A. Palladio, first published in 1570, ten years before his death. A second edition followed in 1581, a year after his death, another in 1601, and so on in remarkable succession. Palladio was a High Renaissance architect. Palladian style-influenced architecture is classified as Neoclassical

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, Cellini, 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:


A style of Italian architecture which was a reaction against the classical perfection of High Renaissanceunnatural proportion and stylistic contradictions.  By the end of the century it had given way to the baroque. 
architecture, either responding with a rigorous application of classical rules and motifs or flaunting Classical convention in terms of shape and scale. It was a relaxed nonconformist style, using
- The Free Dictionary (online Jan. 2016)

Comparing High Renaissance and Mannerist Architecture

High Renaissance Architecture
The High Renaissance is the height of the Renaissance in Italy, which occurred from roughly the 1490s to the 1520s. Architecture of the High Renaissance was seen as the finest example of Renaissance principles, including the use of symmetry, geometry, and mathematically-derived ideal proportions to create a sense of intellectual calm and harmony. High Renaissance architects strove to create a perfect, balanced space that would encourage personal balance and harmony. Remember that architecture is meant to support certain behaviors or lifestyles.

A lot of High Renaissance forms were derived from Classical architecture, meaning the styles of ancient Greece and Rome. This meant a heavy use of columns, arches, and domes to create smooth, balanced architecture.

The greatest achievement of High Renaissance architecture is generally recognized as the Tempietto, a small commemorative tomb in the Roman church San Pietro in Montorio. Designed in 1502 by the famed Renaissance architect Donato Bramate, this small tomb blends architectural styles of Roman temples, early Christian circular tombs, and Renaissance symmetry. The Tempietto is almost perfectly symmetrical, displaying an overwhelming sense of order, balance, and logic. It uses Doric columns, an early Greek style, and a dome roof to reflect the ideal proportions used by the ancient Romans for both a strong temple and the male figure, reflecting the dedication of this tomb to St. Peter.

Mannerist Architecture
As the High Renaissance began to wind down, another style emerged, representing a transition of artistic ideals. Mannerism is the reaction to High Renaissance perfection, encouraging the mixture of idealized and intentionally imbalanced compositions.

In other words, while the High Renaissance was focused on perfect symmetry, order, and balance, Mannerists added elements that were imperfect, more playful, and less logical. In architecture, this meant exploring new relationships between structures and people. Mannerist architects embraced more imaginative, geometrical patterns that occasionally embraced chaos over harmony. Mannerism, as an artistic style, thrived from the 1520s into the 1580s.

The most famous example of Mannerist architecture is the Piazza del Campidoglio, a public plaza on the Capitoline Hill in Rome. It was designed by the Renaissance sculptor Michelangelo, a reminder that Mannerism was a transition from the High Renaissance and often relied on shared artists.

Michelangelo's design re-oriented the Capitoline Hill, which traditionally faced the ruins of the ancient Roman Forum. Rather than emphasize this past, Michelangelo oriented the plaza so that it faced the Vatican, emphasizing the position of Rome as the center of Christianity. By doing this, Michelangelo literally turned away from the Classical traditions of the Renaissance. Literally, he turned the plaza to take emphasis off of the Classical past.
-  (online Jan. 2016)
Mannerist Architecture

Mannerist architecture was characterized by visual trickery and unexpected elements that challenged the renaissance norms. A center of Mannerist design was Antwerp during its 16th-century boom. Through Antwerp, Renaissance and Mannerist styles were widely introduced in England, Germany, Poland, and northern and eastern Europe in general.

During the period, architects experimented with using architectural forms to emphasize solid and spatial relationships. The Renaissance ideal of harmony gave way to freer and more imaginative rhythms.

The best known architect associated with the Mannerist style was Michelangelo (1475–1564), who is credited with inventing the giant order, a large pilaster that stretches from the bottom to the top of a façade. He used this in his design for the Campidoglio in Rome.

Prior to the 20th century, the term Mannerism had negative connotations, but it is now used to describe the historical period in more general non-judgemental terms.  Mannerist architecture has also been used to describe a trend in the 1960s and 1970s that involved breaking the norms of modernist architecture while at the same time recognizing their existence. Defining mannerist in this context, architect and author Robert Venturi wrote "Mannerism for architecture of our time that acknowledges conventional order rather than original expression but breaks the conventional order to accommodate complexity and contradiction and thereby engages ambiguity unambiguously."
- Wikipedia: Mannerist Architecture (online Jan. 2016)
Another example of Mannerist architercture: Church of St. George Maggiore

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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