Laurentian library, San Lorenzo, Florence

(1524-1534)
   In 1524, Pope Clement VII commissioned Michelangelo to build the Laurentian Library for the purpose of housing the collection of books and manuscripts owned by his family, the Medici. The project was interrupted in 1527 when the sack of Rome resulted in the exile of the Medici from Florence. It resumed in 1530 when their banishment was lifted, and abandoned again in 1534 when Michelangelo was working in Rome. It was not until 1559 that the staircase for the library's vestibule was completed by Michelangelo's assistants, Giorgio Vasari and Bartolomeo Ammannati, who followed a model the master had sent from the papal city.
   The vestibule is among the most innovative of Michelangelo's architectural designs as here he experimented with an anticlassical vocabulary that led to the development of the Mannerist style. The stairs that lead to the library's reading room jut out in a rhythmic curvilinear motion. Niches are too shallow to hold statues, the windows above them are blind, and the paired columns flanking them are recessed and supported by scroll brackets — features never before employed in architecture. The library's reading room is in essence a long rectangle pierced by windows on the long walls. These are capped with protruding lintels supported by brackets and enclosed in quadrangular moldings above which the blind windows of the vestibule are repeated—again Michelangelo's inventions. The innovative vocabulary Michelangelo introduced in this commission not only inspired the Mannerist architects but continued to have an impact on the 17th century as Francesco Borromini's experiments with unconventional rhythmic forms prove.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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