Indra Kagis McEwen: Vitruvius in an Age of Princes
In my book Vitruvius: Writing the Body of Architecture (MIT Press, 2003), I concluded that Vitruvius wrote De architectura for Augustus Caesar in ca. 25 BCE as an argument for the necessary role of architecture in the imperial Roman project of world dominion. My new book All the King’s Horses: Vitruvius in an Age of Princes is its sequel.
De architectura was not widely read in antiquity. A millennium and half later, it acquired virtually unchallenged authority among all who were interested in reviving the ancient art of building and much else besides. Key among the reasons for Vitruvius’s appeal was his relevance to the politics of this “age of princes” (mid 14th to late 15th centuries) when ambitious warlords throughout Italy were taking control of cities that had governed themselves as free independent communes during the two hundred years preceding their takeover. Vitruvius’s role in the fulfillment of that autocratic agenda is the focus of the book.
Conventional scholarship tends to treat renaissance architecture in terms of aesthetic principles and design methodology. As a critical appraisal of the political implications of the renaissance revival of Roman antiquity, close study of both architectural and literary sources highlights how Vitruvius became a crucial mediator between imperial Rome and the world of Italian renaissance princes who sought its renewal as the legitimating exemplar for their own ambition.
November 19, 2023 at 12:00pm - 1pm