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San Gallo

Celebrated family of architects, sculptors, painters, and engravers

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San Gallo, a celebrated family of architects, sculptors, painters, and engravers, which flourished in Italy during the Renaissance period, from the middle of the fifteenth to the end of the sixteenth century. The founder of the family was Francesco Giamberti (1405-80), a Florentine wood-carver; he had two sons, Giuliano and Antonio.

(1) GIULIANO DA SAN GALLO, architect and sculptor (1445-1516). After receiving his first training with Francione in his native town, he proceded to Rome, where he conceived his high ideas of architecture and, through the study of Vitruvius, his enthusiasm for the antique. He was engaged at the building of the celebrated Palace of San Marco, which Cardinal Barbo (Paul II) was erecting. On the outbreak of the war between his native town and Naples, he returned to Florence, and displayed such brilliant talent as a military engineer, that Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere entrusted him with the fortification of the harbor of Ostia (1483). In the following years he worked partly in the service and partly under the protection of the Medici family, enjoying the special favor of Lorenzo the Magnificent. Recommended by the latter he built the Church of Madonna delle Carceri at Prato in 1485, and in 1489 the Villa Poggio at Cajano, where Lorenzo loved to associate with the litterateurs. After he had built the hermitage of S. Agostino before the Gate San Gallo, he was given by Lorenzo the surname of San Gallo, which he transmitted to his descendants. He also built the sacristy of Santo Spirito (1488-92), the court of the monastery of Sta Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi, and the Palazzo Gondi (1494). On Lorenzo’s death, Giuliano returned to Rome, where he restored the ceiling of the Church of S. Maria Maggiore, and prepared a model for the palace and cloister court of S. Pietro in Vincoli for Cardinal della Rovere. He accompanied della Rovere to France in 1494, and on his return took active part in the war against the Pisans. He was taken prisoner, but was released six months later after paying a high ransom. In 1503 he was appointed architect to St. Peter’s, and thenceforth—except for a short interruption which again called him to the scene of the war against the Pisans—resided constantly at Rome in the service of Julius II until 1511, when he returned in ill-health to Florence. Here he designed no fewer than seven plans for the Church of San Lorenzo, begun by Brunelleschi but left uncompleted.

(2) ANTONIO DA SAN GALLO THE ELDER, brother of the above, b. 1455; d. December 27, 1534. He shared the fortune of his brother, whom, on their father’s death, he accompanied to Rome and represented in many important undertakings. Pope Alexander entrusted him with the fortification of the Castle of San Angelo, and the fort Civita Castellana. The death of his brother afforded him his first opportunity to demonstrate his great talent as an architect and military engineer. He executed the portico of the Servi in Florence, the aisles of the Annunziata at Arezzo, and at Montepulciano, under the influence of Bramante, the magnificent Church of the Madonna di San Biagio, which must be regarded as one of the most glorious edifices in Italy. For profane buildings also his services were frequently requisitioned; thus at Montepulciano and Montesansovino he erected many palaces of almost classical perfection. Appointed chief engineer over all works of fortification by the Florentine Government, he took a prominent part with Michelangelo in the defense of the city. In spite of his great success he renounced art towards the close of his life, and settled in the country. His numerous sketches and drawings, which reveal a great correctness, are preserved in the Uffizi Gallery at Florence.

(3) ANTONIO DA SAN GALLO THE YOUNGER, b. 1485; d. at Terni, 1546. He was a son of the sister of the two preceding, and his real name was Coroliano (corrupted into Cordiani). With the art of his uncles, he adopted also their name, and it was he who conferred on this name its greatest splendor. At Rome he attached himself closely to Bramante, working at first in his studio and later succeeding him in the building of St. Peter’s. He enjoyed successively the favor of Leo X, Clement VII, and Paul III, in whose service he was engaged for forty-one years. His extraordinary activity was displayed in three directions, as a builder of churches, a builder of palaces, and a military engineer. In Rome he made a plan for the Church of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, but was not entrusted with its execution; completed the Church of the Madonna di Loreto, begun by Giuliano da San Gallo; built the Church of Santo Spirito at Borgo, an edifice of noble dignity and simplicity. On Raphael‘s death, he was appointed architect to St. Peter’s, and proposed to introduce important changes into the original plans. He had a large wooden model (still extant) prepared by his pupil Labacco, showing a glorious vestibule and in the interior and exterior exuberant architectonic decorativeness. His plan was later rejected by Michelangelo. For the Cappella Paolina he also prepared a plan. Among the palaces which he erected the most celebrated is the Palazzo Farnese, with the execution of which Cardinal Alexander Farnese (later Paul III) entrusted him without suspecting that thereby he was about to make him one of the greatest builders of palaces in the whole world; Antonio did not live to see the completion of this gigantic work. He also built the Palazzo Sacchetti, the famous Villa Madama (according to Raphael‘s plans), and in Borgo the uncompleted Porta Santo Spirito. These works did not exhaust his tireless activity. Like his uncles, he was also an able military engineer, and in this capacity was engaged on the fortifications at Civita Vecchia, Ancona, Florence, Parma, Piacenza, Ascoli, Nepi, Perugia, and on the Lago di Marmora. We must also mention the celebrated Pozzo di S, Patrizio (St. Patrick’s Well) at Orvieto, executed (1527-40) at the commission of Clement VII; this is cut one hundred and ninety-eight feet into a tufa rock, 248 steps leading to the water-level. Antonio was buried in St. Peter’s.

Of the other members of this illustrious family of artists may be mentioned: GIOVANNI BATTISTA ANTONIO DA SAN GALLO (1496-1552), a brother of Antonio the younger, whom he assisted in his work; FRANCESCO DA SAN GALLO (1496-1576), son of Giuliano, sculptor and military engineer; BASTIANO DA SAN GALLO (1481-1531), known as Aristoteles, a nephew of Giuliano, painter; GIOVANNI FRANCESCO DA SAN GALLO (1482-1530), architect and engineer.


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