THE modern methods of Filippo Brunelleschi proved of great assistance to architecture, as he had copied and brought to light after long ages the excellent productions of the most learned and distinguished ancients. But Bramante has been no less useful to our own century, for he followed in the footsteps of Filippo, and paved a safe way for those who succeeded, his spirit, courage, genius and knowledge of the art being displayed not only in theory but in practice. Nature could not have formed a mind better adapted than his to put into practice the works of his art with invention and proportion and on so firm a basis. But it was necessary that she should create at the same time a Pope like Julius II., ambitious of leaving a great memory. It was most fortunate that this prince should have afforded Bramante such unrivalled opportunities of displaying his abilities and of showing the full force of his genius, for such a thing rarely happens. Bramante took full advantage of his chance, the mouldings of his cornices, the shafts of his columns, the grace of his capitals, his bases, corbels, angles, vaults, steps, projections and every other detail of architecture being marvellously modelled with the best judgment, and men of ability seem to me to be under as great a debt to him as to the ancients. 1 Because, while the Greeks invented architecture and the Romans imitated them, Bramante not only added new inventions, but greatly increased the beauty and difficulty of the art, to an extent we may now perceive.

He was born at Castello Durante, in the state of Urbino; of a poor man of good condition. In his childhood, besides reading and writing, he was continually doing the abacus. But as it was necessary that he should learn some trade, his father, perceiving his great fondness for design, apprenticed him while still a child to the art of painting. Here he carefully studied the productions of Fra Bartolommeo, otherwise Fra Carnovale da Urbino, who did the picture of S. Maria della Bella at Urbino. But as he always delighted in architecture and perspective, he left Castel Durante, and, passing to Lombardy, worked as best he could in one city after another, not producing things of great cost or value, because as yet he had neither fame nor credit. Determined to see at least one notable thing, he preceeded to Milan 2 to visit the Duomo, where there happened to be one Cesare Cesariano, reputed a good geometrician and architect, who had written a commentary on Vitruvius. Enraged at not having received the reward which he had expected, Cesare refused to work any more, and, becoming eccentric, he died more like a beast than a man. There also was Bernardino da Trevio, 3 a Milanese engineer and architect of the Duomo, and a great draughtsman. He was considered a rare master by Lionardo da Vinci, even though his manner in painting was crude and somewhat dry. There is a Resurrection of his 4 with some fine foreshortenings at the top of the cloister of the Grazie, and a Death of S S. Peter and Paul in fresco in a chapel of S. Francesco. He painted many other works in Milan, and did several others in the neighbourhood, which were valued, and our book contains a very meritorious woman's head in charcoal and white lead, a good example of his style.

But to return to Bramante. After an examination of the Duomo, and having met these masters, he determined to devote himself entirely to architecture. Accordingly he left Milan, and arrived at Rome before the Holy Year 1500. Here he was welcomed by some friends and natives of Lombardy and commissioned to paint in fresco the arms of Pope Alexander VI., supported by angels and figures, over the holy door of S. Giovanni Lateran, which was opened for the Jubilee. Bramante had earned money in Lombardy and at Rome, and on this he hoped to live, by dint of severe economy, and to be able to measure all the ancient buildings of Rome without it being necessary to work. He set about this task, going alone and wrapped in thought. In a little while he had measured all the buildings there and in the neighbourhood, going even as far as Naples, and wherever he knew antiquities to be. He measured what there was at Tivoli and the villa of Hadrian, and made considerable use of this, as I shall have occasion to relate. Bramante's spirit being thus disclosed, the cardinal of Naples 5 happened to observe him, and took him into favour. Thus Bramante pursued his studies, and was charged to restore in travertine the cloister of the friars of the Pace, which the cardinal wished to have done. Being anxious to make a name and to please the cardinal, Bramante displayed the utmost industry and diligence, and speedily completed the work. 6 Although it was not of perfect beauty, it brought him a great reputation, as there were not many in Rome who devoted so much love, study and activity to architecture as he.

Bramante began by serving Pope Alexander VI. as under architect, at the fountain of Trastevere and the one on the piazza of S. Piero. His reputation increasing, he was one of the eminent artists consulted about the palace of S. Giorgio, and the church of S. Lorenzo in Damaso, near the Campo di Fiore, put in hand by Raflaello Riario, cardinal of S. Giorgio, which, though improved after, was and still is considered a convenient and magnificient abode for its size. The director of this building was one Antonio Montecavallo. Bramante was also on the council for the enlargement of S. Jacopo degli Spagnuoliat Navona, and took part in the deliberation concerning S. Marii de Anima, afterwards carried out by a German architect. 7 The palace of the Cardinal Adriano da Corneto in the Borgo Nuovo was also his design. It was built slowly, and was left unfinished owing to the flight of the cardinal, He also designed the enlargement of the principal chapel of S. Maria del Popolo. These works brought him such credit at Rome that he was considered the foremost architect for his resolution, rapidity and excellent invention, so that he was constantly employed by all the great men of the city upon their chief requirements. On the election of Pope Julius II. in 1503 he began to serve him. That Pope had a fancy to cover the space between the Belvedere and the palace, and that it should take the form of a square theatre, embracing a depression between the old papal palace and the building erected there for the pope's dwelling by Innocent VIII., and that there should be a passage by two corridors on either side of the depression leading from the Belvedere to the palace covered by loggias, and so from the palace to the Belvedere, the level of which should be reached from the valley by flights of steps, variously arranged. Bramante, who possessed a good judgment and a fanciful genius in such matters, divided the bottom part into two stories, first a fine Doric loggia like the Coliseum of the Savelli, 8 but instead of half-columns, he put pilasters, building the whole of travertine. The second stage was of the Ionic order and with windows, rising to the level of the first apartments of the papal palace and of those of the Belvedere; to form subsequently a loggia more than four hundred paces on the side towards Rome and another towards the wood, with the valley between, so that it was necessary to bring all the water of the Belvedere and to erect a beautiful fountain. Of this design Bramante completed the first corridor rising from the palace and leading to the Belvedere on the Roman side, except the last loggia, which was to go above. Of the part towards the wood he laid the foundations, but could not finish it, owing to the death of Julius, followed by his own. It was considered such a fine idea that it was believed that Rome had never seen better since the time of the ancients. But, as I have said, nothing but the foundations of the other corridor were laid, and it has barely been completed even in our own day, Pius IV. Putting the finishing touches. Bramante also did the antique gallery in the Belvedere for the ancient statues with the arrangement of niches. Here in his own lifetime Laocoon was put, a very rare and ancient statue, and the Apollo and Venus, and other slater on by Leo X., such as the Tiber, the Nile and the Cleopatra, some others by Clement VII., and a number of important improvements were carried out at great expense in the time of Paul III. and Julius III.

But to return to Bramante, if those who supplied him were not sparing he was very expeditious and he understood the art of construction thoroughly. This building of the Belvedere was carried out with great rapidity, his own energy being equalled by the fever of the Pope, who wanted his structures not to be built but to grow up as by magic. Thus the builders carried away by night the sand and earth excavated by day in the presence of Bramante, so that he directed the laying of the foundations without taking further precautions. This carelessness has occasioned the cracking of his works, so that they are in danger of falling. Of the corridor in question eighty braccia fell down in the time of Pope Clement VII., and it was rebuilt by Pope Paul III., who caused it to be restored and enlarged. There are many other flights of steps of Bramante in the palace, high or low, according to their situation, in the Corinthian, Ionic and Doricorders, very beautiful, and executed with the utmost grace. His model is said to have been of marvellous beauty, as we may judge by the part actually constructed. In addition to this, he made a spiral staircase on rising columns, which a horse may go up, the Doric merging into the Ionic and the Ionic into the Corinthian, all carried out with the utmost grace and art, doing him no less honour than his other works at the same place. This idea was borrowed by Bramante from Niccolo of Pisa, as has been said in the Life of Giovanni and Niccolo Pisani. It entered Bramante's fancy to make a frieze on the front of the Belvedere, with some letters like ancient hieroglyphics to show his skill, and thus to spell out the Pope's name and his own. Thus he had begun: Julio II. Pont. Maxi, making a head in profile of Julius Cesar and a bridge with two arches for Julio II. Pont., and an obelisk of the Circus Maximus for Max., at which the Pope laughed, and told him to do it in letters a braccia long, in the ancient style, which are there today. Bramante said he had borrowed that folly from over a door at Viterbo, where a French architect had done a St. Francis, anarch (cirro), a roof (tetto) and a tower (torre), to signify Maestro Francesco Architettore. The Pope was very gracious to Bramante for his great talents in architecture, and he deserved the Pope's affection and his appointment to the office of the Piombo, 9 for which he made a machine for stamping the bulls, with a fine winch.

When Bologna returned to the Church in 1504, Bramante accompanied the Pope thither, and was busy during the war of Mirandola in many ingenious matters of great importance. He drew many ground-plans and elevations, which were excellently designed, some well-measured and artistically conceived ones being in our book. He instructed Raphael of Urbino in many points of architecture, and sketched for him the buildings which he afterwards drew in perspective in the Pope's chamber, representing Mount Parnassus. Here Raphael drew Bramante measuring with a sextant. The Pope resolved to employ Bramante to collect into one place in the Strada Giulia all the offices and bureaux of Rome for the benefit of those who had affairs there, and who had previously suffered much inconvenience. Accordingly Bramante began the palace at S. Biagio su'l Tevere, containing an unfinished Corinthian temple, a very rare thing, and the remainder in rustic work of great beauty. It is a pity that a work of such nobility and advantage should remain incomplete, for professional men consider it the best thing of the kind ever produced. At S. Piero a Montorio he did a round temple of travertine in the first cloister, unequalled for its proportions, order and variety, with unsurpassable grace and finish. It would have been even better if his design had been carried out in the cloister, which is unfinished. He erected the palace for Raphael of Urbino in the Borgo, built of bricks and blocks of concrete, the columns and the bosses being of Doric and rustic-work of great beauty, and the concrete blocks a new invention. He also designed the decoration of S. Maria of Loreto, afterwards continued by Andrea Sansovino, and made endless models of palaces and temples in Rome and for the States of the Church. So tremendous was his genius that he made a very large design for restoring the Pope's palace.

Bramante's spirit being thus grown great, and seeing the Pope's wish corresponded with his own desire to pull down the church of S. Pietro and build it anew, he made a great number of designs, one being especially admirable displaying his wonderful skill. It has two campaniles, one on either side of the facade, as we see in the coins of Julius II. and Leo X., designed by Caradosso, an excellent goldsmith, unequalled for his dies, and by the fine medal of Bramante himself. The Pope then decided to undertake the stupendous task of building S. Pietro, and caused a half to be pulled down, intending that in beauty, invention, order, size, richness and decoration it should surpass all the buildings ever erected in that city by the power of the republic and by the art and genius of so many able masters. Bramante laid the foundation with his accustomed speed, and before the Pope's death' the walls were raised as high as the cornice, where the arches to all four pilasters are, and he vaulted these with the utmost rapidity and great art. 10 He also vaulted the principal chapel where the nice is, and proposed to push forward the chapel called after the King of France. He discovered, the means of making vaulting by using wooden frames, that it may be carved with friezes and foliage of stucco, and showed the way to make the arches with a hanging scaffolding, an invention followed by Antonio da San Gallo. In this part, finished by ‚himself, the cornice running round the interior is such that it would be impossible to improve its design. The strange and beautiful olive leaves of the capitals and the beauty of the exterior Doric work show the tremendous character of Bramante' s genius, so that if his strength had equalled his genius he would have accomplished unheard-of marvels. Since his death many architects have meddled with this work, so that, excepting the four outside arches bearing the tribune, there is nothing of his left. Raphael of Urbino and Giuliano da S. Gallo, who had charge of the work after the death of Julius II., together with Giocondo of Verona, began to change it. After their death Baldassare Peruzzio made the alterations in building the chapel of the King of France in the crossing towards the Camposanto, while, under Paul III., Antonio da S. Gallo changed everything, and finally Michelagnolo Buonarroti did away with their various ideas and useless expenditure, and brought it to a unified whole of great beauty and perfection, feeling himself, as he has frequently told me, the executor of the plan and design of Bramante, an idea which had never entered the heads of the others, who only thought of their own designs and judgment, although those who begin the construction of an edifice are its real authors. Bramante's conception of this work seemed limitless; he initiated a great building, and if he had begun this magnificent church on a lesser plan it would not have been possible for S. Gallo and the others, no, not even for Michelagnolo, to increase it, indeed they diminished the size, for Bramante conceived something larger.

It is said that Bramante was so anxious for the work to progress that he destroyed in S. Pietro many fine tombs of popes, paintings and mosaics, thus obliterating the memory of many portraits of great men scattered about the principal church in Christendom. He only retained the altar of St. Peter and the old tribune, introducing a fine Doric decoration of peperigno stone, so that when the Pope went to S. Pietroto say Mass he could stand there with all his court and the ambassadors of the Christian princes. Death prevented him from finishing it, and Baldassare of Siena completed it afterwards.

Bramante was of a happy temperament and loved to help his neighbours. He was a great friend to men of ability, and assisted them as much as possible, as in the case of the ever celebrated painter Raphael Urbino, whom he brought to Rome. He lived in honour and splendour in the rank to which his merits had raised him, but he would have been far more lavish had he possessed more. He was very fond of poetry, and loved to hear and compose improvisations on the lee. He composed sonnets which, if not so nice as those of to-day, were grave and faultless. He was greatly esteemed by prelates, and rewarded by the numberless lords who knew him. His reputation stood very high during his life, and became greater after his death, because the building of S. Pietro was delayed for many years. He lived seventy years, being carried to his grave by the papal court, and by all the sculptors, painters and architects. His funeral took place in S. Pietro in 1514. His death was a very great loss to architecture, as he investigated many auxiliary arts, such as forming vaults of gypsum and the making of stucco, used by the ancients, but lost until his day. Those who measure ancient monuments find no less science and design in the works of Bramante. Thus he is evidently one of the most remarkable of the men of genius who have illustrated our century. He left behind him his familiar friend Giulian Leno, who was more skilled in executing the designs of others than in framing his own, though he possessed judgment and experience.

Bramante employed in his works Ventura, a carpenter of Pistoia, very skilful and ingenious in design. This man was fond of measuring the monuments at Rome, and when he returned to Pistoia in 1509 there was a Virgin there, known as the Madonna della Umilita, which works miracles. As this brought much alms, the Signoria determined to erect a temple in its honour. As this opportunity presented itself to Ventura, he made a model with eight sides, braccia broad and. braccia high, with a vestibule or closed porch in front, beautifully decorated within. The heads of the city being delighted with this, the building was begun under Ventura. He laid the foundations of the vestibule and church, completed the former, richly decorating it with pilasters and cornices of the Corinthian order, while fluted cornices were prepared for the vaulting, made of stone and adorned with bosses. The church was also built as far as the last cornice, the tribune remaining to be vaulted while Ventura lived. Not being very skilled in a work of such proportions, he did not consider the weight of the tribune, and in the thickness of the walls in the first and second rows of windows he had made a passage round the church, which weakened the walls, so that as the church was without buttresses it was dangerous to vault it, especially at the corner angles, where the whole weight of the vaulting would fall. Accordingly, after his death, no one had sufficient courage to vault it, and they brought beams to make a flat roof. This did not satisfy the citizens, who would not begin it, and the building remained roofless for many years, until in 1561 the wardens besought Duke Cosimo to grant that the tribune might be made. His Highness directed Giorgio Vasari to go there and devise a means of vaulting the church. He did so, and made a model, raising the edifice eight braccial above the cornice left by Ventura to make buttresses, being together the space between the walls of the passage and strengthening the buttresses, the angles and the parts beneath the passages made by Ventura between the windows, chaining them with great iron limbs doubled at the angles, so that the vaulting might be imposed with safety. His Excellency went to the spot, and, being pleased with everything, gave orders that the work should be carried out. Thus all the buttresses were made and the vaulting begun, as rich as the work of Ventura, but larger, more ornamental, and with better proportion. But Ventura deserves a notice, because that church is the most notable modern work in the city.

  • 1 A portrait of Simonetta Vespucci; now in the Musee Conde, Chantilly.
  • 2 Probably about 1472.
  • 3 Bernardino Zenale of Treviglio, 1436-1526.
  • 4 It is the work of Bernardo Butinone.
  • 5 Oliviero Caraffa.
  • 6 In 1504.
  • 7 Begun in 1500.
  • 8 i.e. the theatre of Marcellus.
  • 9 For the sealing of bulls. In 1511.
  • 1018 April, 1506.

  • Index of Artists