Purpose and Goals:

Purpose and Goals: The goal of this assignment is to help you learn to analyze architectural form for meaning through a close study of an important Italian Renaissance interior: the studiolo of Federico da Montefeltro from the ducal palace at Gubbio, now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. An additional goal of the assignment is to learn how to sustain and enrich an analysis by making use of primary and secondary sources.
Site: The studiolo is located on the first floor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in the galleries devoted to “European Sculpture and Decorative Arts” (gallery no.501).
Historical Background: A Studiolo was a small room built in Renaissance palaces to serve as a private retreat and as a space for study, meditation, and the pursuit of humanist interests. The studiolo at the Metropolitan Museum of Art was commissioned in the late 1470s by Federico de Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, for his residence in the small town of Gubbio. Designed by the Sienese painter and architect Francesco di Giorgio, the room was executed by the Florentine sculptor and architect Giuliano da Maiano in a wood-inlay technique known as intarsia. Using thousands of pieces of different kinds of wood, the designers created the perspective illusion of walls lined with cupboards-a sequence of fictive cabinets that display an array of objects reflecting the Duke’s wide-ranging artistic and scientific interests.
Method: Observe, record, and analyze the studiolo using sketches and short notes, then write a three-page discussing the ways in which this architecture expresses Renaissance ideals through its use of perspective and its iconographic program.
Reading: Before visiting the studiolo, read the following texts:
Leon Battista Alberti, On the Art of Building in Ten Books(1443-52), trans. Joseph Rykwert, Neil Leach and Robert Tavernor (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1988), book 6, “On Ornament,” sections 1-5 pp. 154 – 64.
Robin Evans, “FIgures, Doors and Passages” (1978), in Translations from Drawing to Building and Other Essays (London: Architectural Association, 1997) pp. 55-91.
Theodore K. Rabb, The Last Days of the Renaissance and the March to Modernity (New York: Basic Books, 2006), chap. 3, “The Civilization of the Renaissance”, 41-90.
For the purpose of this assignment, you need to consult only these three texts. No further research is required. You may use museum wall-labels and your own lecture notes as needed.
Drawings: The first step of your analysis will be to produce a series of analytical drawings of the studiolo. The goal of these drawings is not to give a complete architectural representation of this space but to analyze and interpret some of its key features.
You may begin your analysis by drawing the following: 1) a floor plan, 2) one or two elevations, 3) a perspective or an axonometric drawing to convey the overall spatial arrangement of the room, and 4) sketches of two different cabinets and their contents. But remember: This is not a list of required drawings. You don’t need to include all these drawings in your paper. Depending on the themes you’ll choose to focus on, it’ll be up to you to decide which drawings would be most helpful to illustrate your analysis. Remember to label all your drawings with brief captions.
Drawings should be analytical in nature. Although perspectives might be useful to capture certain spatial qualities of the studiolo, the analysis of this space is usually best done by way of orthogonal projections and diagrams. Drawings need not be beautiful. The emphasis should not be on the beauty of your sketches but rather on the ability of your drawings to illustrate and clarify the compositional and proportional logic that underpins the studiolo.
Writing: Building on your own understanding of this space and on the ideas presented by Leon Battista Alberti, Robin Evans, and Theodore Rabb, write a three page essay on the studiolo. In developing your analysis, consider the following themes and questions:
Perspective, Proportion, Space: How did the studiolo’s designers create a sense of depth and spac? How did they use perspective, foreshortening, and proportionality?
The Rediscovery of Ancient Architecture: What architectural elements are simulated in the studiolo’s decoration? How do they relate to the language of classical architecture? Which elements harken back to classical antiquity? Which ones are novel creations?
Iconography: What objects are represented in the fictive cabinets? Is there a relationship among them? How do they contribute to the studiolo’s iconographic programs? What is the narrative of this program? How does it express the Duke’s intellectual ambitions?
Renaissance ideals: How does the studiolo display the humanist ideals we are studying this semester? How does it represent a uniquely Renaissance conception of the relationship between man, God, and the cosmos? What in this room speaks to Alberti’s notion of beauty?

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