Jacopo Tatti, later on Jacopo Sansovino, was born in Florence. He became a sculptor. Michelangelo who didn’t want any competitors made sure Sansovino did not get any orders (click [here] to read this story). Desperate, Sansovino left for Rome. Bramante, Raphael, Giulio da Sangallo and later on Michelangelo all worked here. Through Sangallo, Sansovino came in touch with the papal court. He remained mainly a sculptor, but did start building two churches, among those the San Giovanni dei Fiorentini and one palazzo for the banker Giovanni Gaddi. The Venetian painter Loretto Lotto described Sansovino as the second best sculptor after Michelangelo. After the Sacco di Roma (Sack of Rome) Sansovino fled to Venice in 1527. After arriving in Venice, he solved the technical problems with the cupolas of the San Marco quite brilliantly. He probably used a similar construction that was used for the Pantheon. Rings were applied on the outside to contain the thrust (click here and scroll down for the story about the Pantheon).
Sansovino landed his first big job in 1536. The Coin, the Zecca, had to be rebuilt. It had to meet the following conditions: it had to be burglar-proof, fireproof and suitable for smelting furnaces. Funding for the Zecca was quite remarkable: slaves from Cyprus were freed for 50 ducats per head. Because of fire risk and a booming economy (more coins had to be minted) it was necessary to have a new Zecca. The original design existed of two floors. The precious gold would be minted on the Piano Nobile and the less valuable silver would be minted on the first floor. If there were to be a fire, the gold would not be lost in the fire because of the stone vaults. There was a fair chance of fire because of the smelting furnaces that had to melt the gold and silver. The stalls in front of the old Zecca were included in the new Zecca, which would provide a lot of money. The stalls with cheese and salami belonged to the Procuratie de Supra. A third floor was added in 1558.
Due to the intense heat emanating from both the ovens and the flat roof, it became imperative to take action as the second floor became excessively hot. Sansovino faced the challenge of creating an unassailable perception of the building, while also incorporating sizable windows. In order to ensure ample ventilation for the ovens, the windows needed to be designed accordingly. Furthermore, a series of arches had to be constructed on the ground floor to accommodate the shops. The challenge lay in harmoniously integrating all these elements together. The resolution came in the form of the robust rustica, imparting an appearance of an impenetrable fortress to the building.
Facade of the Zecca, Jacopo Sansovino (1536-1558)
The arcades was given simple rustication, fitting their daily function. The piano nobile gets the manly Dorian order, the shaft of the columns gets rings of rustication. The whole makes a robust impression. The windows are closed with a heavy entablature, and are placed exactly between the rings. The mannerist Guilio Romano loved rustication, particularly when used in columns (Mantua and Rome). This was used in the classical antiquity, as seen in Porta Maggiore in Rome. In Venice it was used by Codussi at the San Michele. However, the rustication by Sansovino differ from this: the whole has to emit force, or as Serlio described in his Book IV: “It is pleasing to the eye and looks forceful. Because of these reasons I consider this more suitable for a stronghold than anything else.” Serlio, Tutte l opere d architettura et prospectiva, Venezia, 1633, p. 133 (THE MET)
The Zecca was very much appreciated by contemporaries of Sansovino. Vasari called it ‘the best, richest and strongest of all buildings by Sansovino’. It is often compared to a stronghold. Sansovino himself called it ‘a worthy prison for the precious gold’. It is no wonder that the real prison next to the Ducale of Rusconi from 1566 copied many aspects of the Zecca.
It is no wonder that the real prison next to the Ducale of Rusconi from 1566 copied many aspects of the Zecca.