The Sangallo Family

The Sangallo family (active late 15th-mid-16th century) was a large and important clan of Florentine artists. The three most prominent figures were architects and military engineers.

Descended from the woodworker Francesco Giamberti, the family received the name Sangallo from its residence near the Porta S. Gallo in Florence. The chief members were Francesco's sons, Giuliano (ca. 1443-1516) and Antonio the Elder (ca. 1453-1534), and their nephew, Antonio the Younger (1483-1546). Giuliano, as leader of the second generation of Florentine Renaissance architects, refined the architectural style of Filippo Brunelleschi to suit the less heroic and more sensuous age of Lorenzo de' Medici. His brother, Antonio the Elder, who often assisted him, was more concerned with military engineering, but his late church at Montepulciano reflects the High Renaissance architectural style inaugurated by Donato Bramante.

Giuliano da Sangallo

Giuliano was trained as a woodcarver in the shop of Il Francione, a local woodworker and military engineer. Giuliano probably accompanied his master to Rome and was certainly there in 1465, as he notes on the title page of his large sketchbook of antiquities (in the Vatican Library). Although there has been some uncertainty about his identification in Roman documents, he was probably active in several of the papal building projects, such as the Palace of S. Marco (1469-1470), St. Peter's (1470-1472), and the benedictional loggia (1470) which once stood in front of old St. Peter's.

After Giuliano returned to Florence, he aided Il Francione with the fortification of Colle Val d'Elsa (1479) and prepared a model for the church of the Servi (1480). With Antonio the Elder, he completed a model for the church and monastery of the Badia (1482) and carved a crucifix for SS. Annunziata (1481-1483).

By the mid-1480s Giuliano was the most prominent architect in Florence and in favor with Lorenzo de' Medici. Nearby at Prato he designed the Church of the Madonna delle Carceri (1485-1491) on a Greek-cross plan of four equal arms with an interior melon-shaped dome over the crossing. The interior with its contrast of dark architectural moldings against the light wall surface is a reflection of the influence of Brunelleschi. The green-and-white marble revetment of the exterior conveys that element of elegance so characteristic of Giuliano. At the same time he built the villa at Poggio a Caiano (ca. 1485) for Lorenzo de' Medici. Organized with separate apartments at the corners of the large central salon, the living quarters of the villa are set in two stories above a great arcaded podium which serves as a terrace around the building. The rectangular mass of the villa is relieved by an entrance loggia designed as a temple front set into the center of the first floor. In 1488 Lorenzo de' Medici sent Giuliano to Naples to deliver to King Ferdinando I the model of a palace, whose plan is in the Vatican sketchbook.

On his return to Florence in 1489 Giuliano prepared the model for the Sacristy of Sto Spirito, and from September 1489 to February 1490 he was paid for the model of the Strozzi Palace. This massive palace was begun in 1490 by Benedetto da Maiano with some minor changes, particularly in the rustication of the stone, from Giuliano's model (preserved in the palace). The Gondi Palace, begun in 1490 after his designs, is a very refined descendant of Michelozzo's Medici Palace in Florence. In 1492 Giuliano traveled to Milan with the model of a palace for Duke Lodovico Sforzo, and the same year he designed the church of S. Maria dell'Umilta‧ at Pistoia.

Giuliano followed Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere to Lyons, France, in June 1494. By August, Giuliano had returned to Italy, probably to the cardinal's native city of Savona, where he designed a palace for the cardinal. With his appointment in 1497 as military engineer of Florence, Giuliano's activity was primarily in Tuscany.

The election in 1503 of his patron, Cardinal della Rovere, as Pope Julius II soon attracted Giuliano to Rome, where he remained until 1507. During this second residence in Rome he was involved in expanding the papal hunting lodge at La Magliana. In 1506 the Pope sent him and the great Florentine sculptor Michelangelo to view the ancient sculpture Laocoon, which had just been discovered, in anticipation of the Pope's acquisition of it for his collection in the Vatican Palace.

By November 1507 Giuliano was again in his native city of Florence, where he was principally active with fortifications at Pisa and Leghorn. When Leo X of the Medici family became pope in 1513, Giuliano immediately returned to Rome. In July he designed for the new pope a tremendous palace near the Piazza Navona which was never executed. On Jan. 1, 1514, Giuliano was appointed supervisor of work for the new St. Peter's, which the architect Bramante was building, and in April he continued in that position with Raphael, who succeeded Bramante.

Giuliano returned to Florence in July 1515. He prepared several unexecuted designs, preserved among his drawings, for the completion of the facade of Brunelleschi's S. Lorenzo. He died on Oct. 20, 1516. His son, Francisco (1494-1576), was a sculptor who was particularly known for his tomb monuments.

Antonio da Sangallo the Elder

Antonio the Elder was active with fortifications in and near Rome in the early 1490s. He worked on the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (1492-1493) and designed the citadel of Civita Castellana (1494). In 1517 he collaborated with Baccio d'Agnolo on the design of the loggia on the Piazza dell'Annunziata in Florence, matching that of Brunelleschi's Ospedale degli Innocenti.

Antonio's most important independent commission was the Church of the Madonna di S. Biagio at Montepulciano (1518-1529). The centralized Greek-cross plan of the church with independent towers in the reentrant angles of the facade and the tall dome on a drum over the crossing obviously reflect Bramante's ideas for St. Peter's.

Antonio da Sangallo the Younger

Antonio the Younger, whose real name was Cordini, was the son of a sister of Giuliano and Antonio the Elder. Accompanying Giuliano to Rome in 1504, Antonio the Younger soon assisted Bramante and served as master carpenter on the work of St. Peter's. In 1516 Antonio was appointed chief assistant to Raphael at St. Peter's. Antonio designed the Farnese Palace in Rome for Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. Work on the palace began in 1517 but was interrupted about 1520, when Antonio succeeded Raphael as chief architect of the new St. Peter's.

For the next decade Antonio undertook numerous papal commissions, although little was executed because of the political and religious upheavals of the period. The Mint, or Zecca, in Rome (1523-1524; now the Banco di Sto Spirito) was designed with a slightly concave facade modeled on a triumphal arch motif above a rusticated ground floor. In 1525 Antonio was concerned with fortifications for Parma and in the following year for Piacenza. At Orvieto he built an amazing public well, the Pozzo di S. Patrizio (1528-1535), with double spiral ramps penetrating to the base of the well around an open core.

The election in 1534 of Cardinal Farnese as Pope Paul III brought renewed architectural activity for Antonio. He redesigned and enlarged the Farnese Palace, resulting in a tremendous three-story building arranged around a square central court. The palace was completed by Michelangelo after Antonio's death. Antonio practically rebuilt the Farnese town of Castro with fortifications, a ducal palace, and the Zecca (all destroyed in 1649). For the entry into Rome of the emperor Charles V in 1536, Antonio organized the artists of Rome to prepare the festival decorations, including temporary triumphal arches near the palace of S. Marco and at the entrance to the Vatican Borgo. Under the threat of Turkish attacks Antonio began in 1537 to prepare new fortifications for Rome, which work continued until his death, including the unfinished Porta di Sto Spirito near the Vatican.

Although Antonio had continued since 1520 to be the architect of the new St. Peter's, assisted by Baldassare Peruzzi, it was only with the Farnese pope that extensive work was accomplished. Antonio built a great wooden model (1539-1546) for a new design for the church (preserved in St. Peter's). The design is of a tremendous Greek-cross plan with a large additional entrance vestibule and twin-towered facade with a benedictional loggia. His actual work on the church was principally concentrated on the southern arm, but he also raised the floor level, changing the interior spatial proportions. In the Vatican Palace from 1539 Antonio was architect for the Sala Regia, where the Pope received royalty, and the adjacent Pauline Chapel. Antonio died at Terni on Aug. 3, 1546.

Further Reading on The Sangallo Family

There are no monographs in English on the Sangallos. Biographical information on them is in Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors and Architects (many editions), and in André Chastel, The Studios and Styles of the Renaissance, Italy 1460-1500 (1966).