This week we’re celebrating the great Renaissance architect Jacopo Sansovino, who died 447 years ago, on 28 November 1570. Florentine by birth, Sansovino spent much of his early career in Rome, where he absorbed the influence of classical antiquity. Following the Sack of Rome in 1527, he was invited to Venice by Doge Andrea Gritti, and shortly afterwards, he was appointed chief architect in charge of the fabric of St Mark’s Basilica and Piazza. He remained in Venice for the duration of his career, and when he died at the age of 84, he left behind some of the city’s most iconic buildings. Here are just a few examples:
Libreria Marciana: Regarded by many as Sansovino’s masterpiece, this grand stone façade stands proudly opposite the Doge’s Palace. With a Doric ground floor, Ionic piano nobile with elaborate frieze, and a balustrade topped with obelisks and statues of gods and heroes, its monumental design is a bold declaration of Sansovino’s admiration for classical Roman architecture, adapted for a Venetian setting.
Palazzo della Zecca: Begun in 1536, the Zecca was Sansovino’s first commission in Venice – a building which once housed the official government mint, or offices responsible for coining money. Since the mint contained high temperature ovens that posed a risk of fire, little wood was used in construction; the building was primarily constructed from solid blocks of Istrian marble carved in a robust, rusticated Doric style – standing in stark contrast to the ornately adorned Libreria Marciana next door.
Loggetta: At the base of the bell tower in St Mark’s Square, built from red Verona marble, the loggetta was one of Sansovino’s earliest works to be completed in Venice (1537-46). Originally a meeting place for patricians during sessions of the Great Council in the Doge’s Palace, it was subsequently used as a military guard room when the Council was sitting. Its design is derived from a Roman triumphal arch, and its sculptures celebrate the glory of the Venetian Republic. Sadly, when the campanile collapsed in 1902, the loggetta was crushed and badly damaged – but it has since been painstakingly restored.