Filippo Brunelleschi

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FILIPPO BRUNELLESCHI


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FILIPPO BRUNELLESCHI STATS
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Name: Filippo Brunelleschi
Born: c. 1377
Home town: Florence
Died: 15 April 1466
Position: Architect, sculptor, goldsmith
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Famous for: Florence Cathedral's Dome
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FILIPPO BRUNELLESCHI BIO
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Florentine architect and sculptor. He was one of the most famous of all architects - a Florentine hero on account of the celebrated dome he built for the city's cathedral - and one of the group of artists, including Alberti, Donatello and Masaccio who created Renaissance style.

He trained as a goldsmith and was one of the artists defeated by another great goldsmith/sculptor, Lorenzo Ghiberti in the competition (1401-02) for the new baptistery doors for Florence Cathedral; both competition panels are in the Bargello.

The disappointment of losing is said to have caused Brunelleschi to give up sculpture and turn to architecture, but one important sculptural work of later date is attributed to him - a painted wooden Crucifix in Santa Maria Novella (c1412, below right). In 1418 Brunelleschi received the commission to execute the dome of the unfinished Gothic Cathedral of Florence. The dome, a great innovation both artistically and technically, consists of two octagonal vaults, one inside the other. Its shape was dictated by its structural needs—one of the first examples of architectural functionalism. Brunelleschi made a design feature of the necessary eight ribs of the vault, carrying them over to the exterior of the dome, where they provide the framework for the dome's decorative elements, which also include architectural reliefs, circular windows, and a beautifully proportioned cupola. This was the first time that a dome created the same strong effect on the exterior as it did on the interior.

In other buildings, such as the Medici Church of San Lorenzo (1418-28) and the foundling hospital called the Ospedale degli Innocenti (1421-55), Brunelleschi devised an austere, geometric style inspired by the art of Ancient Rome. Completely different from the emotional, elaborate Gothic mode that still prevailed in his time, Brunelleschi's style emphasized mathematical rigor in its use of straight lines, flat planes, and cubic spaces. This “wall architecture,” with its flat facades, set the tone for many of the later buildings of the Florentine Renaissance.

Later in his career, notably in the unfinished Church of Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli (begun 1434), the Basilica of Santa Spirito (begun 1436 below left), and the Pazzi Chapel.

Although he was not a painter, Brunelleschi was a pioneer in perspective; in his treatise on painting Alberti describes how Brunelleschi devised a method for representing objects in depth on a flat surface by means of using a single vanishing point.

Another of Brunelleschi’s activities was the designing of the machinery in churches for theatrical, religious performances that re-enacted Biblical miracle stories. Contrivances were created by which characters and angels were made to fly through the air in the midst of spectacular explosions of lights and fireworks. These events took place during state and ecclesiastical visits. Though it is not known for certain how many of these Brunelleschi designed, but it seems that at least one, for the church of San Felice, is confirmed in the records (begun c1441), he moved away from this linear, geometric style to a somewhat more sculptural, rhythmic style. In the first of these buildings, for instance, the interior was formed not by flat walls, but by massive niches opening from a central octagon. This style, with its expressive interplay of solids and voids, was the first step toward an architecture that led eventually to the baroque. Brunelleschi's died in 15 April 1446 his body lies in the crypt of the Florence Cathedral.


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CONTEMPORARY VOICES
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FILIPPO BRUNELLESCHI TRIVIA
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  • During 1402-1404 Brunelleschi and Donatello visited Rome to study the ancient roman ruins and were called treasure hunters.
  • A competition was held for the commission of the Dome this time with Brunelleschi triumphing over Ghiberti. The Wool Merchant's Guild held a competition to stand an egg upright on a piece of marble. None could do it but Brunelleschi who giving one end a blow on the flat piece of the marble made the egg stand upright. The other architects complained saying they could have done the same but Brunelleschi replied "that they could have made the Dome had they had his design".



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ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND MATERIALS
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BOOKS & PUBLICATIONS WEBSITES & MEDIA
  • Argan, Giulio Carlo, “The Architecture of Brunelleschi and the Origins of Perspective Theory in the Fifteenth Century” in J. Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 9 (1946), 96-121
  • Fanelli, Giovanni, 2004, Brunelleschi’s Cupola: Past and Present of an Architectural Masterpiece, Florence: Mandragora
  • Kemp, Martin, “Science, Non-science and Nonsense: The Interpretation of Brunelleschi's Perspective” in Art History 1 (2) (1978), 134-161
  • Prager, F.D., “Brunelleschi's Inventions and the 'Renewal of Roman Masonry Work'” in Osiris 9 (1950), 457-554
  • Millon, Henry A. and Lampugnani, Vittorio Magnago (editors), 1994, The Renaissance from Brunelleschi to Michelangelo: the Representation of Architecture, London: Thames and Hudson
  • Trachtenberg, Marvin, What Brunelleschi Saw: Monument and Site at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence
  • King, Ross, Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture


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