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‘La zecca vecchia’: myth, archeology and architectural design in the high Renaissance concept of rustication

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The article discusses rustication in Renaissance architecture using the analysis of the Mint in Venice as a case study. Its rustication is usually seen as a result of Sansovino's implementing Serlio's theory, while in fact it is better to speak of intellectual cooperation between the architect and the theoretician during the simultaneous growth of their projects. Both of them took inspiration from the building then believed to be the Temple of Saturn or the Aerarium (treasury) of the Romans. I argue that the rustication of this and other classical structures was thought to be an archaic feature, while the Aerarium had the additional connotation of the Saturnian Golden Age. The term rustico introduced by Serlio circumscribes precisely the range of significations implied in the idea of the Aerarium: it invokes the aesthetic roughness of the archaic epoch and the agricultural connotations of Saturn's rule. Serlio's introduction of the ornamento rustico in the canon is thus an architectural expression of Golden Age mythology so popular with the High Renaissance. To this level of meaning, which Serlio shared with his milieu, he added new approaches (such as nature versus art) that became more popular with his followers.

Keywords: Golden Age; Peruzzi; Sansovino; Serlio; rustication

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Publication date: April 1, 2011


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