Cinquecento styles (usually written by Ruskin as two words), the 'classicalism' which is the result of ‘affectation and infidelity’ (Notebook M2 p.176), were the result of moral and architectural degradation. The moral and religious point underlying Ruskin’s narrative of the degradation of the nature of Gothic, its moral and architectural strength, is made at Notebook M2 p.176. The best of Gothic sculpture celebrates the triumph over God over their savage hearts. The ‘sophistication of Palladio’ is favoured by the ‘noblesse of Venice’ who ‘decorate their houses with the sources of their pleasure, with grinning masques and sculptured musical instruments’.
Palladio, whose work according to Woods (1828) I p.238, gave universal pleasure, Scamozzi, and Sansovino are put in the same category as sources of the ‘dominant evils of modern times’ (Works, 9.46), but the process of degradation had started much earlier.
In Milan the degradation of Gothic is typified by Milan Cathedral, but other examples cited by Ruskin include at Notebook M2 p.2back:
Certosa at Pavia - facade from 1473 including work by Giovanni Santonio Amadeo, who was responsible for the Colleoni Chapel in Bergamo (see McClintock; see Works, 8.50 and Works, 9.263 and for a photograph see here);
the Colleoni Chapel at Bergamo, built by Giovanno Antonio Amadeo 1472-6 (Coroneo; see image links there and here);
Troyes - presumably the work by Martin Cambiges on the West Front of the cathedral, called by Stephen Murray ‘the triumphant last flourish of Gothic’ (Murray). For images see here;
The ‘Netherland minaret Brussels’, presumably the Hotel de Ville, on which see van Tyghem and for an image see here;
Burgos cathedral, influenced by Bourges in its initial design, but ‘transformed’ during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. See Welander and for an image see here;
The porches of Bourges cathedral, which provide a ‘perfect study for their elaborate failure’ (Notebook M2 p.179), and the central figure of Christ is ‘commonplace’ (Sheet No. 199):
In Venice the tomb of Michele Morosini shows every one of the renaissance errors. In the Frari the degradation is typified by the flamboyant choir stalls and the Foscari tomb. The door of Santo Stefano has crockets of a kind which Ruskin sees as inappropriate to Venetian architecture (Works, 11.12f). In the Porta della Carta of Bartolomeo Bon the ‘vice reaches its climax’ (Works, 11.14):
At Notebook M p.i Ruskin notes the branching crockets of the upper parts of St Mark’s and links them there with the niches.
The niches of St. Marks provide one case study of transition and decline (Notebook M p.205): one is superior to all the rest Notebook M p.211; it is the central type Venetian Gothic, equally removed from Byzantine and late florid work (Notebook M p.213); however, the most recent are vulgar and distorted as if they were part of Milan cathedral or a stonemason’s yard on the Euston Road in London (Notebook M pp.205-206).
Another case study is provided by the Ducal palace, and in particular the Ducal Palace Series of Capitals of Lower Arcade, and the Ducal Palace windows with traceries which represent Gothic at its best, and the Ducal Palace windows without traceries which exemplify the degradation of Gothic. See also Ducal Palace Windows.
The Scuola di San Rocco is examined at Notebook M2 p.79 and Notebook M2 p.111 and linked with the Palazzo Vendramin Calergi which provides an example ‘of all vile things I have seen of the renaissance the vilest’ (Notebook M2 p.111).
In Verona Book Ruskin takes a rather different view. At Verona Book p.23 the word ‘translation’ is used. Examples there of the translation of Gothic to renaissance include doors at Verona (on which compare Notebook M2 p.5 and Notebook M2 p.121), the Scuola di San Rocco, Palazzo Vendramin Calergi, the door of SS. Giovanni e Paolo, as well as Como and Monza. These buildings are set against the ‘mistaken classical’ of Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore. At Verona Book p.40 the ‘Veronese’ renaissance, defined by the same list, is distinguished from the ‘utterly vile’ work of Palladio.
These examples of translations from Gothic to Renaissance are also distinguished from those where the translation is from the Byzantine to the renaissance, with a strong feeling for colour; examples cited are Ca’ Dario, Trevisan (presumably Palazzo Cappello Trevisan in Canonica), and the Miracoli church.
Degradation is associated not only with ‘vile’ building but also with ‘restorations’ which are merely ‘destructions’ (Notebook M p.104) and with the dereliction of the good architecture of the past described at Notebook M p.80 in relation to the Remer House which is ‘one the most neglected’ and ‘one of the loveliest’. Sometimes restorations which came after Ruskin’s time mean that the building he describes are not the buildings which can be seen now. Examples are: the Fondaco dei Turchi; Ruskin’s House No. 29, now replaced by the Hotel Bauer Grunwald, and Ruskin’s House 30, the Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti at San Marco 2847, described at House Book 1 p.35, but rebuilt and restored by Camillo Boito for Baron Franchetti who bought the building in 1878.
[Version 0.05: May 2008]