doors and windows - filippo brunelleschi biography

Your Way to Florence - All about Florence and Tuscany, Italy: accommodation, tourism...

  Doors and Windows  

One of the more evident consequences of the diffusion of Brunelleschi's idiom was the new love for architectural elements in the urban facades. After the early fifteenth century, arches used for doors and windows were almost exclusively round-headed. The arches were built much as before in palaces with stone facing although more attention was paid to their patterning in the facade, with large robust wedge-shaped blocks set fanwise and interlocked with the rusticated ashlars. Continuous cornices (more or less elaborate) were adopted for the windows of the plastered palace facades (Pal. Pazzi-Quaratesi); in ordinary houses the solution was often a continuous smooth fascia of pietra serena. In some more important palaces a classical type of window with a simple architrave appeared for the first time (courtyard of Pal. Busini, facade of Pal. Rucellai) while Brunelleschi was the first to introduce windows with a triangular pediment in the facade of the Ospedale degli Innocenti. This solution however did not spread until the following century, together with that of a curved tympanum. It does however appear in the sgraffito facade of Palazzo Lapi. Twolight windows with a round arch and small columns in classical style occur in the more important palaces (Palazzo Medici, Rucellai, Strozzino, Pazzi, Strozzi). A rudimentary cross window is to be found in Palazzo Rucellai, in Palazzo Pitti, while in Palazzo Sertini in Via Corsi and in the courtyard of Palazzo Strozzi the form, which then spread in the sixteenth century, is more developed.

In the palaces and larger houses the portal had two leaves, in one of which there was often a smaller door for normal daily use. The external and internal doors were veneered with boards nailed onto the wood of the inner side with studs over the entire surface if the leaf was uniformly flat or along the frames around the panels. They had panels with rosettes or inlays or carved, iron rings to move the door, doorlatches. The main door of the Palazzo Medici, with panels and studding, is in fifteenth century style.

Windows were closed with wooden shutters, generally studded, (as in the doors the nails were distributed over the whole shutter if it was flat and on the frames if the shutter was divided into panels) which swung inwards. The shutter was articulated in several hinged pieces (two, three, four or even more) one above the other thanks to upright pivot pins or hinges, as can be seen in Palazzo Strozzi. The size and position of the opening could thus he regulated to furnish the amount of light and air desired. In many houses, but above all in the ordinary type, the windows had nothing but these shutters to close them, while in others they were coupled with the 'impannate' (first used, although infrequently in the fourteenth century), frames stretched with linen cloth that had been painted with turpentine or oil varnish to make it waterproof and more transparent. The impannata had two leaves, each comprised below of a movable shutter on a list of the frame. These shutters always opened outwards, at times turning vertically like the leaves of a door, more often from the bottom upwards and kept at the desired height either by a cord fastened to the lower list of the shutter, or passing through a hole set high in the vertical middle list of the shutter and fastened to a hook or a slender iron rod (similar props are still used in Florence today to keep the louvered shutters raised). Flat glass panes were practically unavailable commercially and the tondos imported from Venice, France or Flanders were expensive and rarely to be found. The louvered shutters so much part of the Florentine urban scene of today (and of Italy in general as distinguished from the rest of Europe) were not yet to be found in fifteenth-century Florence and did not make their appearance until the end of the eighteenth century, to be widely disseminated in the nineteenth. The tenants had to see to their own 'window-furniture' which therefore rarely fitted the windows of the rented house. This is why in the iconography of the time the window frames are hardly ever set inside the jambs, but are applied outside the opening. Sometimes the lower part of the window was furnished with jalousies which were made of crossed wooden rods so that it was possible to spy on events in the street below without being seen.

Curtains were hung either on the rods set in the iron hooks along the facade in which case they were then set so far out and so low that the light could freely enter from above, serving less as a shade against the sunlight than as a way of keeping out the prying eyes of neighbors, or on much shorter rods supported by hooks set above in the jambs or at the sides of the windows.

a project by - web & seo agency - firenze