Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



Presented at the Renaissance Society of America Conference, Humboldt University, Berlin, 2015.


Mannerist architects in the Cinquecento created what can be called “tropic architecture.” They set out to break the rules of classical architecture, but the rule-breaking was done systematically, by applying rhetorical tropes, or figures of speech, to architectural composition, the four most common being metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche, and irony. According to Paul Oskar Kristeller, rhetoric was an important basis of Renaissance humanism. Students learned tropes and other figures of speech from well-circulated classical texts such as the Rhetorica ad Herennium and Quintilian’s Institutio oratorio. Examples of tropic devices can be found in works such as Giulio Romano’s Palazzo del Te and Michelangelo’s Porta Pia. There are many examples of mannerist works of architecture in the twentieth century that used the same tropic devices. The use of tropic devices in architectural composition results in an architecture that is a form of poetry.

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