The Italian Presence in American Art, 1760-1860

By Irma B. Jaffe | Go to book overview
Save to active project

15. The Italianate Villa and the Search for an American Style, 1840-1860

CHARLES E. BROWNELL, University of Virginia


I. INTRODUCTION

The purpose of this essay is to show that Italian architecture played a vital part in American architectural developments at the middle of the nineteenth century. Among the Americans of this period who concerned themselves with the idea of a national style in architecture, some important figures believed that a newly imported vogue, the Italianate villa, had swiftly become just such a style. In the long run, the "American-Italian" or "American Style of Italian" met with fortunes very different from what its mid-century admirers had intended. It had, however, lasting consequences for American architecture. In particular, no movement had more to do with establishing the axially asymmetrical façade in stylish architecture. Much about the Italianate villa had, in actuality, little to do with Italy, but genuine Italian precedent contributed profoundly to the asymmetrically composed façades in question. 1

In 1840, except for a handful of members of the avant-garde, when Americans built a stylish building, they followed the principle of axial symmetry for the façade. However regular or irregular a building's plan might be, this plan had to fit behind a main front where the left-hand and right-hand sides exactly mirrored each other (or, ple controlled one of the principal features of a building, the main façade, and decisively influenced an even more important feature of the building, the plan.

This principle represents the influence of the classical tradition. The Italian Renaissance renewed the Graeco-Roman legacy of Western culture, with consequences that remained especially newed the Graeco-Roman legacy of Western culture, with consequences that remained especially strong down into the mid-nineteenth century. This essay, in fact, rests on the belief that one can speak of this phenomenon as a coherent tradition, one that ran through the center of Western architecture for some four centuries, from the Early Renaissance in Florence to the international Neoclassical movement of the late eighteenth to mid-nineteenth centuries. In what is now the United States, the tradition made itself felt architecturally as early as the seventeenth century. Between 1740 and 1840 the tradition grew immensely powerful in shaping the course of architecture here, with the popularizing of, first, Anglo- Palladianism, and then the several species of Neoclassicism. 2

Around the middle of the nineteenth century, the tradition and, with it, the axially symmetrical façade, lost their central place and became merely one set of possibilities. By 1860, the building with an asymmetrical main front -- the building designed to be seen from the principal vantage points as an irregular cluster of masses -- had become established in American taste. Specifically, the irregularly composed house and the irregularly composed church had become fundamental possibilities for stylish design in the United States. Asymmetry had not put in as great a showing on the fronts of civic buildings and commercial structures, but it had materialized there in important examples.

Such massing, which offers great opportunities for imaginative composition and great advantages for practical planning, has remained a basic possibility in stylish architecture ever since. Various intermingled developments contributed to its success at mid-century: for instance, the Picturesque Movement, the Gothic Revival, and, within the Gothic Revival, the parish church revival. Among these developments, the irregular Italianate villa has received little scholarly attention. 3

What was the Italianate villa? It was one mani

-208-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Italian Presence in American Art, 1760-1860
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 252

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.