Thursday, July 22, 2004

July 22 thursday

I saw the entry hall of the Laurentian Library today.  It is very similar, in many ways, to the Medici Chapel.  Square plan, three levels rising from crowded to simple in their decoration.  The library entry is much more vertical in its feeling.  Windows are replaced by empty niches, so the only light comes in from the top level.  Double columns, deeply recessed, only start on the second, or library level, to which the huge, spilling staircase rises and tapers.  Under the double columns scroll-shaped corbels descend like tree roots but don't reach the ground.  Furthermore there is a crypt-like lack of decoration to the entry level, and light descends from the only windows on the third level.  Together with the verticality of the columns dividing the walls evenly into thirds, these features give one the sense of being in a crypt or at the bottom of a cave. 

There is an interesting balance here between crowded, abundant forms and simple restraint-- again, as in the New Sacristy.  The corbels beneath the columns in the entry hall actually project into each others' spaces in the corners of the room, which causes the curves to merge symmetrically.  The staircase seems to spill outward, expanding as it descends and filling up most of the plan of the floor.  I feel the presence of death in both rooms.  There is a weight in both places, but also a mysterious airiness.  Colleen put it in an interesting way yesterday.  She said she felt as if she were inside the mind of Michelangelo when we were in the Chapel, and that seemed exactly right to me. 

Michelangelo worked directly from inner vision.  He didn't build models and copy them, he dug into the marble using only the inner vision as a guide.  The architecture feels somehow similar.  The strange creatures and masks on the statues, the oddities of tapering pilasters, curving, expanding stairs, tapering windows, and empty niches all come without precedent from his imagination; but everything is linked to classical architecture, classical symbolism.  Michelangelo's rational designs are induced from an inner impulse which he must have believed to be more fundamental than tradition and deduction. 

You induce the rational from the intuitive.


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