The theory of proportions in Daniele Barbaro's commentary on Vitruvius' "De Architectura"
Daniele Barbaro's commentary represents the culmination of the Renaissance efforts to understand the complex architectural theory of Vitruvius' De architectura. The erudition of Barbaro, his personal contacts with the leading intellectuals and artists of his time, as well as collaboration with Palladio, make his commentary an exceptional document of Renaissance architectural theory. This dissertation analyzes the theory of proportions expounded in the commentary.
The problems of the theory of proportions in Barbaro's commentary on Vitruvius can be divided into two groups: those that pertain to the theoretical foundation of the theory of proportions and those that relate to the application of the theory of proportions to architecture. The former include the position of the theory of proportions in the context of Barbaro's philosophical views as well as in the context of the Renaissance speculations about Harmonia Mundi. Particular attention has been paid to the relation of Barbaro's commentary on Vitruvius with respect to his philosophical works which have been neglected so far and to the reconstruction of the position of the architectural theory of proportions in the context of the sixteenth century Paduan Aristotelianism.
There are three crucial problems regarding the application of the theory of proportions to architecture in Barbaro's commentary on Vitruvius: the debate about symmetry (i.e. the commensurability versus the incommensurability of ratios); the applicability to architecture of the ratios from Vitruvius' chapter on harmonics and the theory of classical orders.
A very important problem that arises from the separation of the theoretical foundation and the architectural application of the theory of proportions comes from the impression that the proportional rules whose application Barbaro suggests are not directly deduced from his general theoretical considerations. A careful analysis of Barbaro's philosophical writings and pneumatological debates of the time helps resolve this seeming contradiction.