FILIPPO BRUNELLESCHI (Italian: ; 1377 – April 15, 1446) was an
Italian designer and a key figure in architecture , recognised to be
the first modern engineer, planner and sole construction supervisor.
He was one of the founding fathers of the
Renaissance . He is
generally well known for developing a technique for linear perspective
in art and for building the dome of the
Florence Cathedral . Heavily
dependent on mirrors and geometry, to "reinforce Christian spiritual
reality", his formulation of linear perspective governed pictorial
depiction of space until the late 19th century. It also had the most
profound – and quite unanticipated – influence on the rise of
modern science. His accomplishments also include other architectural
works, sculpture, mathematics, engineering, and ship design. His
principal surviving works are to be found in
Florence , Italy.
Unfortunately, his two original linear perspective panels have been
* 1 Early life
* 2 Emergence of
* 3 Commissions
* 5 Other work
* 5.1 Discovery of linear perspective
* 5.2 Theatrical machinery
* 5.3 Death
* 6 Fictional depictions
* 7 Principal works
* 8 See also
* 9 References
* 10 Further reading
* 11 External links
Brunelleschi was born in Florence, Italy. Little is known about his
early life, the only sources being
Antonio Manetti and Giorgio Vasari
. According to these sources, Filippo's father was Brunellesco di
Lippo, a notary, 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 , 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 , came from the guild to which he belonged.
In 1401 Brunelleschi entered a competition to design a new set of
bronze doors for the
Florence Baptistery . Seven competitors each
produced a gilded bronze panel, depicting the
Sacrifice of Isaac
Sacrifice of Isaac .
Brunelleschi's entry, which, with that of
Lorenzo Ghiberti , is one of
only two to have survived, made reference to the Greco-Roman Boy with
Thorn . Brunelleschi's panel consists of several pieces bolted to the
EMERGENCE OF HUMANISM
Section of the dome
Brunelleschi is considered a seminal figure of the
Little biographical information about Brunelleschi's life exists to
explain his transition from goldsmith to architect, or his training in
the gothic or medieval manner, or his transition to classicism in
architecture and urbanism. Around 1400, there emerged a cultural
interest in "humanitas," or humanism , which idealized the art of
Greco-Roman antiquity over the formal and less lifelike style of the
medieval period. However, this interest was restricted to a few
scholars, writers, and philosophers before it began to influence the
visual arts. It was in this period (1402–1404) that Brunelleschi and
Donatello visited Rome to study its ancient ruins.
Donatello, like Brunelleschi, was trained as a goldsmith, though he
later worked in the studio of contemporarily well-known painter
Ghiberti . Although the glories of
Ancient Rome were a matter of
popular discourse at the time, it seems that no one had studied the
physical fabric of its ruins in any detail until Brunelleschi and
Brunelleschi's first architectural commission was the Ospedale degli
Innocenti (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 meters
high. The building was dignified and sober; there were no displays of
fine marble or decorative inlays. It was also the first building in
Florence to make clear reference—in its columns and capitals—to
classical antiquity .
Soon other commissions came, such as the Ridolfi Chapel in the church
of San Jacopo sopr\'
Arno , now lost, and the
Barbadori Chapel in Santa
Felicita , also modified since its building. For both, Brunelleschi
devised elements already used in the Ospedale degli Innocenti, and
which would also be used in the
Pazzi Chapel and the Sagrestia Vecchia
. At the same time he was using such smaller works as a sort of
feasibility study for his most famous work, the dome of the Cathedral
Sculpture of Brunelleschi looking at his cathedral dome
Santa Maria del Fiore
Santa Maria del Fiore was the new cathedral of the city, and by 1418
the dome had yet to be defined. When the building was designed in the
previous century, no one had any idea how such a dome was to be built,
given that it was to be even larger than the Pantheon 's dome in Rome
and that no dome of that size had been built since antiquity. Because
buttresses were forbidden by the city fathers, and because it 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 constructed without it collapsing under its own
weight. Furthermore, the stresses of compression were not clearly
understood, and the mortars used in the period would set only after
several days, keeping the strain on the scaffolding for a very long
In 1418, the Arte della Lana, the wool merchants' guild, held a
competition to solve the problem. The two main competitors were
Ghiberti 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 : "... giving one end a
blow on the flat piece of marble, made it stand upright ...The
architects protested that they could have done the same; but Filippo
answered, laughing, that they could have made the dome, if they had
seen his design." (This solution was also attributed to Columbus; see
Egg of Columbus
Egg of Columbus .)
The dome, the lantern (built 1446–ca.1461) and the exedra (built
1439–1445) would occupy most of Brunelleschi's life. Brunelleschi's
success can be attributed, in no small degree, to his technical and
mathematical genius. Brunelleschi used more than four million bricks
in the construction of the octagonal dome. Notably, Brunelleschi left
behind no building plans or diagrams detailing the dome's structure;
scholars surmise that he constructed the dome as though it were
hemispherical, which would have allowed the dome to support itself.
He invented a new hoisting machine for raising the masonry needed for
the dome, a task no doubt inspired by republication of
Vitruvius ' De
Architectura, which describes Roman machines used in the 1st century
AD to build large structures such as the Pantheon and the Baths of
Diocletian , structures still standing which he would have seen for
himself. He also issued one of the first patents for the hoist in an
attempt to prevent the 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 diluted wine, similar to that given to pregnant
women at the time, up to them. He felt the trip up and down the
hundreds of stairs would exhaust them and reduce their productivity.
Nave of the Santo Spirito, Florence, 1441–1481 Chapel
of the Pazzi family, one of his last works
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 and Siena . In 1424, he was working in
Lastra a Signa , a village protecting the route to Pisa, and in 1431
in the south of Italy on the walls of the village of Staggia . These
walls are still preserved, but whether they are specifically by
Brunelleschi is uncertain.
He also was active briefly in the world of shipmaking, when, in 1427,
he built an enormous ship named Il Badalone to transport marble to
Florence from Pisa up the River
Arno . The ship sank on its maiden
voyage, along with a sizable chunk of Brunelleschi's personal fortune.
Besides his accomplishments in architecture, Brunelleschi is also
credited with inventing one-point linear perspective which
revolutionized painting and paved the way 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.
DISCOVERY OF LINEAR PERSPECTIVE
diagram of Brunelleschi's experiment
Brunelleschi is famous for two panel paintings illustrating geometric
optical linear perspective made in the early 15th century. His
Antonio Manetti , described this famous experiment in
which Brunelleschi painted two panels: the first being the Florentine
Baptistery as viewed frontally from the western portal of the
unfinished cathedral, the other one is the Palazzo Vecchio seen
obliquely from its northwest corner. These were not, however, the
first paintings with accurate linear perspective, for Ambrogio
Lorenzetti employed this in his Presentation at the Temple in 1342.
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 facing the Baptistery, looking
through the hole in the panel, from the unpainted backside. As a
mirror was moved into and out of view, the observer saw the striking
similarity between the actual view of the Baptistery, and the
reflected view of the painted Baptistery image. 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 vividly how they might paint their images, not merely
as flat two-dimensional shapes, but looking more like
three-dimensional structures, just as mirrors reflect them.
Unfortunately, both panels have since been lost.
Around this time linear perspective, as a novel artistic tool, spread
not only in Italy but throughout Western Europe. It quickly became,
and remains, standard studio practice.
Brunelleschi also designed machinery for use in churches during
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
light and fireworks. These events took place during state and
ecclesiastical visits. It is not known for certain how many of these
Brunelleschi designed, but at least one, for the church of San Felice
, is confirmed in the records.
Brunelleschi's body lies in the crypt of the Cathedral of Florence.
As explained by
Antonio Manetti , 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
Santa Maria del Fiore , and with a marble bust,
which was said to be carved from life, and placed there in perpetual
memory with such a splendid epitaph ." 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 him buries him here in the
Brunelleschi is portrayed by
Alessandro Preziosi in the 2016
television series Medici: Masters of
The principal buildings and works designed by Brunelleschi or which
included his involvement, all situated in Florence:
Dome of the
Florence Cathedral (1419–1436)
Ospedale degli Innocenti
Ospedale degli Innocenti (1419–ca.1445)
* The Basilica of San Lorenzo (1419–1480s)
* Meeting Hall of the
Palazzo di Parte Guelfa (1420s–1445)
Sagrestia Vecchia , or Old Sacristy of S. Lorenzo (1421–1440)
* Santa Maria degli Angeli : unfinished, (begun 1434)
* The lantern of
Florence Cathedral (1436–ca.1450)
* The exedrae of
Florence Cathedral (1439–1445)
* The church of Santo Spirito (1441–1481)
Pazzi Chapel (1441–1460s)
Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli
* ^ Walker, Paul Robert (2003). The Feud That Sparked the
Renaissance: How Brunelleschi and Ghiberti Changed the Art World.
HarperCollins . p. 5. ISBN 0-380-97787-7 .
* ^ "The Duomo of
Florence Tripleman". tripleman.com. Retrieved
* ^ "brunelleschi\'s dome – Brunelleschi\'s Dome".
Brunelleschisdome.com. Archived from the original on April 16, 2010.
* ^ Bodart, Diane (2008).
Renaissance & Mannerism. New York:
Sterling. ISBN 978-1402759222 .
* ^ "Filippo Brunelleschi". Encyclopedia.com.
* ^ A B Edgerton, Samuel. "Brunelleschi\'s mirror, Alberti\'s
window, and Galileo\'s \'perspective tube\'".
* ^ http://www.biography.com/people/filippo-brunelleschi-9229632
* ^ For an English version of Vasari's description of the life and
work of Brunelleschi, see:
* ^ A B Battisti, Eugenio (1981). Filippo Brunelleschi. New York:
Rizzoli. ISBN 0-8478-5015-3 .
* ^ Walker, Paul Robert (2002). The Feud that Sparked the
Renaissance: How Brunelleschi and Ghiberti Changed the Art World. New
York: William Morrow. ISBN 0-380-97787-7 .
* ^ Klotz, Heinrich (1990). Filippo Brunelleschi: the Early Works
and the Medieval Tradition. Translated by Hugh Keith. London: Academy
Editions. ISBN 0-85670-986-7 .
* ^ King, Ross (2001). Brunelleschi's Dome: The Story of the great
Cathedral of Florence. New York: Penguin. ISBN 0-8027-1366-1 .
* ^ From Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and
Architects, published 1500. Quoted from 'Italian Renaissance', Martin
Roberts for Longman, 1992
* ^ Saalman, Howard (1980). Filippo Brunelleschi: The Cupola of
Santa Maria del Fiore. London: A. Zwemmer. ISBN 0-302-02784-X .
* ^ Prager, Frank (1970). Brunelleschi: Studies of his Technology
and Inventions. Cambridge: The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-16031-5 .
* ^ Jones, Barry; Sereni, Andrea; Ricci, Massimo (2008-01-01).
"Building Brunelleschi\'s Dome: A practical methodology verified by
experiment". Construction History. 23: 3–31.
* ^ The origins of the industrial property right. See:
http://www.european-patent-office.org/wbt/pi-tour/tour.php Step 3.
* ^ "Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance". February 18, 2004.
PBS. Retrieved October 2, 2011. Missing or empty series= (help )
* ^ Brunelleschi\'s Monster Patent: Il Badalone
* ^ For proposed reconstructions of Brunelleschi's demonstration,
see Edgerton, Samuel Y. (2009). The Mirror, the Window & the
Renaissance Linear Perspective Changed Our Vision of
the Universe. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. ISBN
978-0-8014-4758-7 . And István Orosz,
* ^ Manetti, Antonio (1970). The Life of Brunelleschi. English
translation of the Italian text by Catherine Enggass. University Park:
Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-00075-9 .
* ^ "Medici: Masters of Florence". Internet Movie Database.
Retrieved 24 December 2016.
* Argan, Giulio Carlo; Robb, Nesca A (1946). "The
Brunelleschi and the Origins of Perspective Theory in the Fifteenth
Century". J. Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. 9: 96–121. JSTOR
750311 . doi :10.2307/750311 .
* Fanelli, Giovanni (2004). Brunelleschi's Cupola: Past and Present
of an Architectural Masterpiece. Florence: Mandragora.
* Heydenreich , Ludwig H. (1996).
Architecture in Italy,
1400–1500. New Haven/London: Yale University Press. ISBN
* Hyman, Isabelle (1974). Brunelleschi in perspective.
* Kemp, Martin (1978). "Science, Non-science and Nonsense: The
Interpretation of Brunelleschi's Perspective". Art History. 1 (2):
* Prager, F. D. (1950). "Brunelleschi's Inventions and the 'Renewal
of Roman Masonry Work'". Osiris. 9: 457–554. doi :10.1086/368537 .
* Millon, Henry A.; Lampugnani, Vittorio Magnago, eds. (1994). The
Renaissance from Brunelleschi to Michelangelo: the Representation of
Architecture. London: Thames and Hudson.
* Trachtenberg, Marvin (1988). What Brunelleschi Saw: Monument and
Site at the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. New York.
* King, Ross (2000). Brunelleschi\'s Dome: How a
Reinvented Architecture. New York: Walker. ISBN 0-8027-1366-1 .
* Devémy, Jean-François (2013). Sur les traces de Filippo
Brunelleschi, l'invention de la coupole de
Santa Maria del Fiore
Santa Maria del Fiore à
Florence. Suresnes: Les Editions du Net. ISBN 978-2-312-01329-9 . (in
* Saalman, Howard (1993). Filippo Brunelleschi: The Buildings. Penn
* Vereycken, Karel, "The Secrets of the Florentine Dome", Schiller
Institute , 2013. (Translation from the French, "Les secrets du dôme
de Florence", la revue Fusion, n° 96, Mai, Juin 2003)
* "The Great Cathedral Mystery",
PBS Nova TV documentary, February
Wikisource has the text of the 1911