Holzgesimse der Renaissance in Italien und Spanien : Untersuchung zu Herkunft und Baugeschichte des Holzgesimses am Palazzo del Giardino in Sabbioneta

  • Wooden renaissance cornices in Italy and Spain : research on the origin and construction history of the wooden cornice of the Garden Palace in Sabbioneta

Helmenstein, Caroline; Pieper, Jan (Thesis advisor)

Aachen : Publikationsserver der RWTH Aachen University (2014)
Dissertation / PhD Thesis

Aachen, Techn. Hochsch., Diss., 2014


After returning from his ten-year-long stay in Spain in the service of Philipp II, Vespasiano Gonzaga - who received the title of Duke in 1577 - as of 1578 continued the expansion of his ideal city of Sabbioneta, situated in the Po Valley, by the formation of the today‘s Piazza d‘Armi in the south-western part of the city. The first building to be constructed there, by using existing structures, was the Casino of Vespasiano, known today as Palazzo del Giardino or Garden Palace, with its garden. However, already as of 1583 a number of further building activities followed, in which the Casino was included: On the Casino’s western side two buildings were attached (one of which does not exist anymore) that connected the Casino with the Rocca situated 65 m farther to the west. To the Casino’s north facade facing the Piazza d‘Armi the nearly hundred meters long Corridor grande was attached to accommodate the Duke‘s collection of antiquities. The upper floor of the Casino was from this moment on part of a system of elevated corridors, which led from the Rocca presumably through the whole town up to the Ducal Palace. While the fresco programme of the Casino - above all the very well-preserved paintings in the rooms in the upper floor - was already analysed several times thoroughly, the superficially unimposing facade of the Casino - and in particular his wooden cornice - has remained up to now widely unnoticed. Having a closer look at the long-stretched main facade enclosed by small corner risalits, above all the wooden cornice stands out. Thirteen lion‘s head corbels divide the wooden cornice into twelve identically formed segments, and every cornice segment is quadrisected by three volute corbels. The metope-like panels between the corbels are decorated alternately with Bucrania and shields - the typical motifs of the metopes of a Doric frieze. Nevertheless, the striking rhythm and the typical forms of the wooden cornice can be derived neither from the reference to stone modillions, nor could comparable wooden cornices be found in Italy, which could have served as a model for the wooden cornice of the Casino in Sabbioneta. Hence, at the beginning of the thesis, the construction history of the Casino and of the adjoining constructions around the Piazza d‘Armi is reconstructed, because only on the basis of these considerations can the formation of the wooden cornice be understood. In addition, creation and construction of the wooden cornice are described for the first time in detail, and the function of the wooden cornice for the design of the Casino facade is analysed. Further, the spreading and creation of wooden cornices in Italy and - because Vespasiano Gonzaga was connected all the life with the Spanish royal family - also in Spain is examined. Up to now neither the Italian ones nor the Spanish wooden cornice constructions were examined systematically. The classification, exemplary description and comparative confrontation of Italian and Spanish wooden cornices of the Renaissance will be achieved here. On this basis the wooden cornice of the Casino in Sabbioneta can be arranged exactly and be separated from other cornice constructions. The thesis stands in connection with the research project "The elevated corridors of Sabbioneta" promoted by the DFG which was carried out in the Department of History of Architecture (RWTH Aachen University) under the direction of Professor Jan Pieper. Within the scope of the research project the system of elevated corridors was examined which connected the ducal buildings of Vespasiano Gonzaga in the 1580s.


  • Chair of History of Architecture [217110]