For reasons yet to be adequately explained, I seem to be a Mannerist. In architectural terms, that corrals me with the likes of Michelangelo and Nicholas Hawksmoor, company I’m pleased to keep. But associating with such august historical figures puts considerable responsibility on my aging, arthritic, and sadly sagging shoulders.
There are several periods of architectural history that particularly interest me—the Prairie School (for obvious reasons), both Gothic Revival and Victorian Gothic, the Arts & Crafts among them—but there is a style associated with Edwardian Britain which is scarcely represented and comparably little appreciated here in the U. S.: the Baroque Revival, which seems as much Mannerist as it does Baroque. For Brits, it may have prompted Hawksmoor’s rise from obscurity. I recall articles about him from the Architectural Review in the 1960s and Kerry Downs’s biographical study. Since then, it’s hard to count the mounting number of paeans to the self-effacing man who lingered too long in the shadow of both Wren and Vanbrugh. I was reminded of all this when the bank postcard appeared in my daily eBay scan.
Mannerism is largely an Italian phenomenon, short-lived and characterized by optical tricks played with geometries and perception. Renaissance mind games. But in English hands it became a game of scale; generally, design components far too large for their “proper” role in a Renaissance vocabulary. Like the exaggerated masonry coursing on this marvelous bank, for example, scaled for stone but contrarily executed in brick. And the columns are engulfed, as though someone with a rake rode past on their unicycle, gouging one hundred and forty-foot routs in the wall from corner to corner. Regardless.
Despite the ionic column caps, there is also something fundamentally Prairie School about the proportions: Classical window openings aren’t supposed to be horizontal. From where I sit, there are so many things wrong with this building that it’s right. Wish I could see the interior.
What all this folderol has to do with Agincourt isn’t certain. I just know that it will in the fullness of time.