Library of St. Mark, Venice

(1537-1580s)
   Jacopo Sansovino's greatest masterpiece. The Library of St. Mark was built to house the Greek manuscripts Cardinal Basilius Bessarion, the Patriarch of Constantinople, bequeathed to the Republic of Venice in 1468. Sansovino was faced with the problem of creating a design that would not minimize the importance of the Doge's Palace, Venice's seat of government, which the library faces. Sansovino opted for a long façade, making sure that it would not overtower the palace, and he added a great deal of decorative sculpture for texture that gave the building an imposing design. The lower level provides a passageway for Venetians to shield themselves from the elements, as well as shops. The reading room is in the upper story to prevent damage to the books during floods. The arches of the passageway and the upper windows create a play of light on the surface and of voids and solids that grant the structure a rhythmic quality. Sansovino applied the Colosseum principle to the exterior, with the Doric order in the lower story and the Ionic in the upper level. He was, in fact, the first to introduce this motif to Venice.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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