Filippo Brunelleschi

Filippo Brunelleschi

Overview





Filippo Brunelleschi (fi'lippo brunel'leski; 1377 – April 15, 1446) was one of the foremost architects and engineers of the Italian Renaissance
Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe...

. He is perhaps most famous for inventing linear perspective and designing the dome of the Florence Cathedral, but his accomplishments also included bronze artwork, architecture (churches and chapels, fortifications, a hospital, etc), mathematics, engineering (hydraulic machinery, clockwork mechanisms, theatrical machinery, etc) and even ship design.
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Filippo Brunelleschi (fi'lippo brunel'leski; 1377 – April 15, 1446) was one of the foremost architects and engineers of the Italian Renaissance
Italian Renaissance
The Italian Renaissance began the opening phase of the Renaissance, a period of great cultural change and achievement in Europe that spanned the period from the end of the 13th century to about 1600, marking the transition between Medieval and Early Modern Europe...

. He is perhaps most famous for inventing linear perspective and designing the dome of the Florence Cathedral, but his accomplishments also included bronze artwork, architecture (churches and chapels, fortifications, a hospital, etc), mathematics, engineering (hydraulic machinery, clockwork mechanisms, theatrical machinery, etc) and even ship design. His principal surviving works are to be found in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

.

Early life


Very little is known about the early life of Brunelleschi; the only sources are Antonio Manetti
Antonio Manetti
Antonio Manetti was an Italian mathematician and architect from Florence. He was also the biographer of the architect Filippo Brunelleschi....

 and Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari was an Italian painter, writer, historian, and architect, who is famous today for his biographies of Italian artists, considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing.-Biography:...

.
According to these sources, Filippo's father was Brunellesco di Lippo, a lawyer, and his mother was Giuliana Spini. Filippo was the middle of their three children. The young Filippo was given a literary and mathematical education intended to enable him to follow in the footsteps of his father, a civil servant. Being artistically inclined, however, Filippo enrolled in the Arte della Seta
Guilds of Florence
The guilds of Florence were secular corporations that controlled the arts and trades in Florence from the twelfth into the sixteenth century. These Arti included seven major guilds , five middle guilds and nine minor guilds...

, the silk merchants' Guild, which also included goldsmiths, metalworkers, and bronze workers. He became a master goldsmith in 1398. It was thus not a coincidence that his first important building commission, the Ospedale degli Innocenti
Ospedale degli Innocenti
The Ospedale degli Innocenti is a historical building in Florence, central Italy. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, who received the commission in 1419, it was originally a children's orphanage. It is regarded as a notable example of early Italian Renaissance architecture...

, came from the guild to which he belonged.

In 1401, Brunelleschi entered a competition to design a new set of bronze doors for the baptistery
Baptistery
In Christian architecture the baptistry or baptistery is the separate centrally-planned structure surrounding the baptismal font. The baptistry may be incorporated within the body of a church or cathedral and be provided with an altar as a chapel...

 in Florence. Along with another young goldsmith, Lorenzo Ghiberti
Lorenzo Ghiberti
Lorenzo Ghiberti , born Lorenzo di Bartolo, was an Italian artist of the early Renaissance best known for works in sculpture and metalworking.-Early life:...

, he produced a gilded bronze panel, depicting the Sacrifice of Isaac. His entry made reference to the Greco-Roman Boy with Thorn
Boy with Thorn
Boy with Thorn, also called Fedele or Spinario, is a Greco-Roman Hellenistic bronze sculpture of a boy withdrawing a thorn from the sole of his foot, now in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome...

, whilst Ghiberti used a naked torso for his figure of Isaac. In 1403, Ghiberti was announced the victor, largely because of his superior technical skill: his panel showed a more sophisticated knowledge of bronze-casting; it was completed in one single piece. Brunelleschi's piece, by contrast, consisted of numerous pieces bolted to the back plate. Ghiberti went on to complete a second set of bronze doors for the baptistery, whose beauty Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

 extolled a hundred years later, saying "surely these must be the "Gates of Paradise".

As an architect


There is little biographical information about Brunelleschi's life to explain his transition from goldsmith to architect and, no less importantly, from his training in the gothic or medieval manner to the new classicism in architecture and urbanism that we now loosely call the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 and of which Brunelleschi is considered the seminal figure. By 1400 there emerged an interest in humanitas which contrasted with the formalism of the medieval period, but initially this new interest in Roman antiquity was restricted to a few scholars, writers and philosophers; it did not at first influence the visual arts. Apparently it was in this period (1402–1404) that Brunelleschi and his friend Donatello
Donatello
Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi , also known as Donatello, was an early Renaissance Italian artist and sculptor from Florence...

 visited Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 to study the ancient Roman ruins. Donatello, like Brunelleschi, had received his training in a goldsmith's workshop, and had then worked in Ghiberti's studio. Although in previous decades the writers and philosophers had discussed the glories of ancient Rome, it seems that until Brunelleschi and Donatello made their journey, no-one had studied the physical fabric of these ruins in any great detail. They gained inspiration too from ancient Roman authors, especially Vitruvius
Vitruvius
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio was a Roman writer, architect and engineer, active in the 1st century BC. He is best known as the author of the multi-volume work De Architectura ....

 whose De Architectura
De architectura
' is a treatise on architecture written by the Roman architect Vitruvius and dedicated to his patron, the emperor Caesar Augustus, as a guide for building projects...

provided an intellectual framework for the standing structures still visible.

Commissions


Brunelleschi's first architectural commission was the Ospedale degli Innocenti
Ospedale degli Innocenti
The Ospedale degli Innocenti is a historical building in Florence, central Italy. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, who received the commission in 1419, it was originally a children's orphanage. It is regarded as a notable example of early Italian Renaissance architecture...

‎ (1419–ca.1445), or Foundling Hospital. Its long loggia would have been a rare sight in the tight and curving streets of Florence, not to mention its impressive arches, each about 8 m high. The building was dignified and sober; there were no displays of fine marble and decorative inlays. It was also the first building in Florence to make clear reference—in its columns and capitals—to classical antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

.

Soon other commissions came, such as the Ridolfi Chapel in the church of San Jacopo sopr'Arno
San Jacopo sopr'Arno
San Jacopo sopr'Arno is a church in Florence, Italy.The church was built in the 10th-11th century in Romanesque style; it subsequently and experienced heavy modifications, including the addition of a triple-arched portico....

, now lost, and the Barbadori Chapel
Barbadori Chapel
The Barbadori Chapel, later Capponi Chapel, is a chapel in the church of Santa Felicita in Florence, central Italy. It was designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, and was later decorated by a cycle of works by the Mannerist painter Pontormo.-History:...

 in Santa Trinita
Santa Trinita
Santa Trinita is a church in central Florence, Italy. It is the mother church of the Vallumbrosan Order of monks, founded in 1092 by a Florentine nobleman...

, also modified since its building. For both Brunelleschi devised elements already used in the Ospedale degli Innocenti, and which will also use in the Pazzi Chapel
Pazzi Chapel
The Pazzi Chapel is a religious building in Florence, central Italy, considered to be one of the masterpieces of Renaissance architecture. It is located in the "first cloister" of the Basilica di Santa Croce.- History :...

 and the Sagrestia Vecchia
Sagrestia Vecchia
The Sagrestia Vecchia, or Old Sacristy, is a Christian building in Florence, Italy, one of the most important monuments of the early Italian Renaissance architecture. It is accessed from the inside of San Lorenzo off the left transept...

; at the same time he used such smaller works as a sort of feasibility tests for his most famous work, the dome of the Cathedral of Florence.

Of the two churches that Brunelleschi designed, the Basilica of San Lorenzo
Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze
The Basilica di San Lorenzo is one of the largest churches of Florence, Italy, situated at the centre of the city’s main market district, and the burial place of all the principal members of the Medici family from Cosimo il Vecchio to Cosimo III...

, (1419-1480s) and Santo Spirito
Santo Spirito di Firenze
The Basilica of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito is a church in Florence, Italy. Usually referred to simply as Santo Spirito, it is located in the Oltrarno quarter, facing the square with the same name...

 (1441–1481), both of which are considered landmarks in Renaissance architecture
Renaissance architecture
Renaissance architecture is the architecture of the period between the early 15th and early 17th centuries in different regions of Europe, demonstrating a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, Renaissance...

, the latter is seen as conforming most closely to his ideas.

Santa Maria del Fiore: The Florence Cathedral


Santa Maria del Fiore
Santa Maria del Fiore
The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore is the cathedral church of Florence, Italy. The Duomo, as it is ordinarily called, was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to the design of Arnolfo di Cambio and completed structurally in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi...

 was the new cathedral of the city, and by 1418 the dome
Dome
A dome is a structural element of architecture that resembles the hollow upper half of a sphere. Dome structures made of various materials have a long architectural lineage extending into prehistory....

 had yet to be defined. When the building was designed in the previous century, no one had any idea about how such a dome was to be built, given that it was to be even larger than the Pantheon
Pantheon, Rome
The Pantheon ,Rarely Pantheum. This appears in Pliny's Natural History in describing this edifice: Agrippae Pantheum decoravit Diogenes Atheniensis; in columnis templi eius Caryatides probantur inter pauca operum, sicut in fastigio posita signa, sed propter altitudinem loci minus celebrata.from ,...

's dome in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 and that no dome of that size had been built since antiquity. Because buttresses were forbidden by the city fathers, and clearly was impossible to obtain rafters for scaffolding long and strong enough (and in sufficient quantity) for the task, it was unclear how a dome of that size could be built, or just avoid collapse. It must be considered also that the stresses of compression
Hoop stress
Circumferential stress is a type of mechanical stress of a cylindrically shaped part as a result of internal or external pressure.The classic example of circumferential stress is the tension applied to the iron bands, or hoops, of a wooden barrel...

 were not clearly understood at the time, and the mortars used in the periods would only set after several days, keeping the strain on the scaffolding for a very long time. In 1419, the Arte della Lana, the wool merchants' guild, held a competition to solve the problem. The two main competitors were Ghiberti
Lorenzo Ghiberti
Lorenzo Ghiberti , born Lorenzo di Bartolo, was an Italian artist of the early Renaissance best known for works in sculpture and metalworking.-Early life:...

 and Brunelleschi, with Brunelleschi winning and receiving the commission.

The competition consisted of the great architects attempting to stand an egg upright on a piece of marble. None could do it but Brunelleschi, who, according to Vasari:
The dome, the lantern (built 1446–ca.1461) and the exedra
Exedra
In architecture, an exedra is a semicircular recess or plinth, often crowned by a semi-dome, which is sometimes set into a building's facade. The original Greek sense was applied to a room that opened onto a stoa, ringed with curved high-backed stone benches, a suitable place for a philosophical...

e (built 1439-1445) would occupy most of Brunelleschi’s life. Brunelleschi's success can be attributed to no small degree to his technical and mathematical genius. Brunelleschi used more than 4 million bricks in the construction of the dome. He invented a new hoisting machine for raising the masonry needed for the dome, a task no doubt inspired by republication of Vitruvius
Vitruvius
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio was a Roman writer, architect and engineer, active in the 1st century BC. He is best known as the author of the multi-volume work De Architectura ....

' De Architectura, which describes Roman machines used in the first century AD to build large structures such as the Pantheon and the Baths of Diocletian
Baths of Diocletian
The Baths of Diocletian in Rome were the grandest of the public baths, or thermae built by successive emperors. Diocletian's Baths, dedicated in 306, were the largest and most sumptuous of the imperial baths. The baths were built between the years 298 AD and 306 AD...

, structures still standing which he would have seen for himself. He also issued one of the first patents for the hoist
Hoist (device)
A hoist is a device used for lifting or lowering a load by means of a drum or lift-wheel around which rope or chain wraps. It may be manually operated, electrically or pneumatically driven and may use chain, fiber or wire rope as its lifting medium. The load is attached to the hoist by means of a...

 in an attempt to prevent theft of his ideas. Brunelleschi was granted the first modern patent for his invention of a river transport vessel.

Brunelleschi kept his workers up in the building during their breaks and brought food and wine up to them. He felt the trip up and down the hundreds of stairs would exhaust them and reduce their productivity. In a further attempt to motivate the workers, he gave them diluted wine, similar to that given to pregnant women at the time.

Other work



Brunelleschi's interests extended to mathematics and engineering and the study of ancient monuments. He invented hydraulic machinery and elaborate clockwork, none of which survives.

Brunelleschi also designed fortifications used by Florence in its military struggles against Pisa
Republic of Pisa
The Republic of Pisa was a de facto independent state centered on the Tuscan city of Pisa during the late tenth and eleventh centuries. It rose to become an economic powerhouse, a commercial center whose merchants dominated Mediterranean and Italian trade for a century before being surpassed and...

 and Siena
Republic of Siena
The Republic of Siena , was a state originating from the city of Siena in Tuscany, Central Italy.It existed for over four hundreds years, from the late 11th century until the year 1555, when was defeated by the rival Duchy of Florence in alliance with the Spanish crown...

. In 1424, he did work in Lastra a Signa
Lastra a Signa
Lastra a Signa is a comune in the Province of Florence in the Italian region Tuscany, located about 12 km west of Florence.-References:The hospital building was...

, a village protecting the route to Pisa, and in 1431 he did work to the south, on the walls of the village of Staggia. The latter walls are still preserved, but whether these are specifically by Brunelleschi is uncertain.

He also had a brief appearance in the world of shipmaking, when, in 1427, he built a monstrous ship called Il Badalone to transport marble to Florence from Pisa up the Arno River. The ship sank on its first voyage, along with a sizable chunk of Brunelleschi's personal fortune.

Besides accomplishments in architecture, Brunelleschi is also credited with inventing one-point linear perspective
Perspective (graphical)
Perspective in the graphic arts, such as drawing, is an approximate representation, on a flat surface , of an image as it is seen by the eye...

 which revolutionized painting and allowed for naturalistic styles to develop as the Renaissance digressed from the stylized figures of medieval art. In addition, he was somewhat involved in urban planning: he strategically positioned several of his buildings in relation to the nearby squares and streets for "maximum visibility". For example, demolitions in front of San Lorenzo were approved in 1433 in order to create a piazza facing the church. At Santo Spirito, he suggested that the façade be turned either towards the Arno so travelers would see it, or to the north, to face a large, prospective piazza.

Invention of linear perspective


The first known paintings in geometric optical linear perspective
Perspective (graphical)
Perspective in the graphic arts, such as drawing, is an approximate representation, on a flat surface , of an image as it is seen by the eye...

 were made by Brunelleschi in about 1425. His biographer, Antonio Manetti
Antonio Manetti
Antonio Manetti was an Italian mathematician and architect from Florence. He was also the biographer of the architect Filippo Brunelleschi....

, described this famous experiment in which Brunelleschi painted two panels; the first of the Florentine Baptistery as viewed frontally from the western portal of the unfinished cathedral, and second the Palazzo Vecchio as seen obliquely from its northwest corner.

The first Baptistery panel was constructed with a hole drilled through the centric vanishing point. Curiously, Brunelleschi intended that it only be observed by the viewer holding the unpainted back of the picture against his/her eye with one hand, and a mirror in the other hand facing and reflecting the painted side. In other words, Brunelleschi wanted his new perspective "realism" to be tested not by comparing the painted image to the actual Baptistery but to its reflection in a mirror according to the Euclidean laws of geometric optics. This feat showed artists for the first time how they might paint their images, no longer merely as flat two-dimensional shapes, but looking more like three-dimensional volumes just as mirrors reflect them. Unfortunately, both panels have since been lost.

Soon after, linear perspective as a novel artistic tool spread not only in Italy but throughout western Europe, and quickly became standard studio practice up to and including present time.

Theatrical machinery



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 S. Felice, is confirmed in the records.

Death


Brunelleschi's body lies in the crypt of the Cathedral of Florence. As explained by Antonio Manetti
Antonio Manetti
Antonio Manetti was an Italian mathematician and architect from Florence. He was also the biographer of the architect Filippo Brunelleschi....

, who knew Brunelleschi and who wrote his biography, Brunelleschi "was granted such honors as to be buried in the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, and with a marble bust, which they say was carved from life, and placed there in perpetual memory with such a splendid epitaph
Epitaph
An epitaph is a short text honoring a deceased person, strictly speaking that is inscribed on their tombstone or plaque, but also used figuratively. Some are specified by the dead person beforehand, others chosen by those responsible for the burial...

." Inside the cathedral entrance is this epitaph: "Both the magnificent dome of this famous church and many other devices invented by Filippo the architect, bear witness to his superb skill. Therefore, in tribute to his exceptional talents, a grateful country that will always remember buries him here in the soil below."

Principal works


The principal buildings and works designed by Brunelleschi or which included his involvement:
  • Dome of the Cathedral of Florence, (1419–1436)
  • Ospedale degli Innocenti
    Ospedale degli Innocenti
    The Ospedale degli Innocenti is a historical building in Florence, central Italy. Designed by Filippo Brunelleschi, who received the commission in 1419, it was originally a children's orphanage. It is regarded as a notable example of early Italian Renaissance architecture...

    ,‎ (1419–ca.1445)
  • Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze
    Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze
    The Basilica di San Lorenzo is one of the largest churches of Florence, Italy, situated at the centre of the city’s main market district, and the burial place of all the principal members of the Medici family from Cosimo il Vecchio to Cosimo III...

    , (1419–1480s)
  • Meeting Hall of the Palazzo di Parte Guelfa
    Palazzo di Parte Guelfa
    The Palazzo di Parte Guelfa is a historical building in Florence, central Italy. During he Middle Ages, it was the headquarters of the Guelph party in the city .-History:...

    , (1420s–1445)
  • Sagrestia Vecchia
    Sagrestia Vecchia
    The Sagrestia Vecchia, or Old Sacristy, is a Christian building in Florence, Italy, one of the most important monuments of the early Italian Renaissance architecture. It is accessed from the inside of San Lorenzo off the left transept...

    , or Old Sacristy of S. Lorenzo, (1421–1440)
  • Santa Maria degli Angeli
    Santa Maria degli Angeli, Florence
    Santa Maria degli Angeli is the former church of a now-defunct monastery in Florence, Italy. It belonged to the Camaldolese order, which was a reformed branch of the Benedictines. The congregation was founded in 1012 by the hermit St. Romuald at Camaldoli, near Arezzo, hence the name...

    : unfinished, (begun 1434)
  • The lantern of the Florence Cathedral, (1436–ca.1450)
  • The exedrae of the Florence Cathedral, (1439–1445)
  • Santo Spirito di Firenze
    Santo Spirito di Firenze
    The Basilica of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito is a church in Florence, Italy. Usually referred to simply as Santo Spirito, it is located in the Oltrarno quarter, facing the square with the same name...

    , (1441–1481)
  • Pazzi Chapel
    Pazzi Chapel
    The Pazzi Chapel is a religious building in Florence, central Italy, considered to be one of the masterpieces of Renaissance architecture. It is located in the "first cloister" of the Basilica di Santa Croce.- History :...

    , (1441–1460s)

External links