VENICE ARCHITECTURE BIENNALE COMMON

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When he took over in 1527 Scarpagnino tried to bring the facade in line with more modern trends in architecture, but his understanding of classical principles of design was less than his knowledge of individual motifs. The great pedimented left-hand portal reflects a celebrated Roman triumphal arch, the Arco dei Gavi in Verona. The use of a single broad pediment to crown each pair of windows on the upper storey also has a respectable nearby antique precedent in the Porta dei Borsari in Verona. Although the free-standing columns on high bases with their heavy projecting cornices emphatically command the raking view of the approach, the intricately carved garlands that swathe them seem to distract attention from their role as bold framing elements. Moreover, Scarpagnino made no attempt to disguise the fact that the bay over the main entrance is wider than the other four bays. One cannot deny that the facade, with its picturesque detail, virtuoso stone-carving, rich array of marbles and high relief, is eye-catching and impressive from any approach. This rhetorical ostentation reflects not only the wealth of the Scuola di San Rocco itself, but also the highly charged competitiveness between the various Venetian scuole grandi. Nevertheless, a certain lack of coherence shows that Venice was more than ready for the importation of new talent. If the architects of the Scuola di San Rocco showed some knowledge of the antiquities on Venetian territory, they had only limited understanding of the Renaissance concepts of clarity and harmony.
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