The Loggetta

 

Jacopo Sansovino, Loggetta, begun 1537, Venice (Photograph by Gaspa, http://flickr.com/photos/gaspa/)

Jacopo Sansovino, Loggetta, begun 1537, Venice (Photograph by Gaspa, http://flickr.com/photos/gaspa/)

 

 

        While Sansovino undertook these large projects around the Piazzetta he created a need for improvements in the surrounding structures.  By adjusting the angle of the stalls around the campanile to construct the library he freed the campanile from the wall and joined the piazza and Piazzetta together.  By making the tower stand individually, Sansovino placed considerably more emphasis on the bell tower and its small loggia.  Not only drawing attention to it spatially, the marked improvements of the surrounding structures made the loggia seem drab.  The painting View of the Piazzetta by Lazzaro Bastiani shows the original structure was simple with a triple arcade, four columns, and a lean to form.[1]  Acknowledging the new grandeur surrounding it, the Procuratia de Supra commissioned a replacement sometime before 1537.  Already the chief architect Sansovino naturally took responsibility for the project and led its construction from 1538 to its staggered completion in the mid 1540s.[2] 

         A relatively tiny structure, the Loggetta did not house many formal functions.  Opened in the morning and afternoon, the space served as a casual meeting place for the Venetian patriciate.  Whether for the general leaders before meetings of the Great Council or the Procurators themselves, the space had almost no functional role.  Although the Loggetta’s interior was unimportant, the building’s placement made its exterior a powerful and noted symbol of the state.  As a vehicle for display rather than use, the facing of the Loggetta could speak of the myth of Venice directly.  The Loggetta materializes the myth in several ways.  Its rich decoration boasts the confidence of the Venetian state and is articulated in the ambitious sculptural pieces that cover much of its front.  Like Sansovino’s other buildings in the piazzetta, the Loggetta makes these claims in a Roman form.  

        Fitting its visual role, the small Loggetta is covered in richly colored marbles and sculpture.  Echoing the richness of its surrounding structures it includes oriental marbles in the columns and a collection of red Verona marble, deep green verde antica, and white Carrara marble and Istrian stone.[3]  These exotic stones were to be recognized as costly and sumptuous materials.  The simple shelter cost the Procuracy a sum of 4,258 ducats.  While its was considerably less than Sansovino’s other projects, it was a huge sum of wealth focussed into one tiny structure.  With no material reason for its construction the Loggetta was a demonstration of richness.

        Framed by the showy stone, equally rich relief sculptures conveyed the myth eloquently.  Four bronze statues by Sansovino stood in niches between the arcades.  His son Francesco describes the identity and meaning of each: Pallas, showed the wisdom of the government; Apollo stood for the singular nature and harmony of the republic; Mercury embodied careful thoughts and action; and Peace spoke of Venice’s pacifist nature.  While the ground floor’s sculpture showed virtue, the attic’s reliefs conveyed power.  The central panel shows Justice presiding over the immediate Venetian empire while the sides stand for more distant Mediterranean holdings.  Jupiter symbolized his kingdom of Crete and Venus similarly demonstrated the Venetians’ domain over her realm, Cyprus.[4] 

        By using Roman deities the Venetians expressed their claims to Mediterranean dominance in the guise of Classical precedents.  Furthermore, the supposed tombs of both these figures were in the Venetians’ control as they held these island nations.  Consequently they advertised the Venetians’ possession of potent Roman culture while demonstrating the breadth of their empire.

        Additional conflation with the Romans is readily visible in the form of the Loggetta itself.  With its three arch scheme the Loggetta was conceived as a triumphal arch.  Mimicking the monuments Sansovino was so familiar with in Rome, details such as the detached columns and their individual bases completed the illusion.  Although the equal height of the three arches contrasts with Roman precedents, the facade’s overall impression remains.

 

[1]   Deborah Howard, Jacopo Sansovino: Architecture and Patronage in Renaissance Venice, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975), 26.

[2]   As the Loggetta is richly adorned the completion of its sculptural elements took a considerable amount of time.  Although the building is presumed to have been complete as early as 1540, the four bronze sculptures were not installed until 1545. 

[3]   Howard, Sansovino, 34. 

[4]   Francesco Sansovino made these claims in the light of Pietro Bembo’s supposed discovery of Venus’ tomb during military service in Cyprus.  Jupiter’s tomb was allegedly believed to be on Crete by the Venetians as shown in some documents.  As Francesco was an early travel writer his accounts should be assumed to be slightly fantastical.  However, as the son of Jacopo Sansovino his interpretation of the iconographic plan holds more weight.  Howard, Sansovino, 34. 

 

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Responses

HI there,

Thanks for sharing the Venice pictures online… impressive

Thanks,
Harry

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