Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi (1396–1472) was an Italian
architect and sculptor. Considered one of the great pioneers of
architecture during the Renaissance,
Michelozzo was a favored Medici
architect who was extensively employed by Cosimo de' Medici. He was a
Lorenzo Ghiberti in his early years and later collaborated
Known primarily for designing
Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence, he
is often overshadowed by his contemporaries
Donatello in sculpture and
Brunelleschi in architecture. "He remained for his biographers a
shadowy, active, competent, second-rate figure, circling around the
glowing glory of the two dominant masters."
1.1 Early life
2 Influences and Patronage
2.1 Cosimo dei Medici
2.2 Filippo Brunelleschi
3 Personal life
4.1 Palazzo Medici
4.2 San Marco
4.3 Choir of the Santissima Annunziata
4.4 Santa Croce
4.5 Other Notable Works
5 Death and legacy
6 See also
8 Further reading
9 External links
Michelozzo was born in
Florence in 1396. He was the son of Bartolomeo
di Gherardo Borgognone and Antonia. Borgognone was of French origin
and arrived in
Burgundy at an unknown date.
Borgognone lived and worked in the Santo Croce quarter of
a tailor, and was made a Florentine citizen on April 9, 1376.
Michelozzo had three brothers named Leonardo (b. 1389/90), Zanobi (b.
1391), and Giovanni (b. 1403). By 1391, Michelozzo's family had moved
to the San Giovanni quarter, where they continued to live throughout
Little is known about Michelozzo's childhood, other than that he
received a comprehensive education in reading, writing, and
arithmetic, and that he began working as a die-engraver for the
Florentine mint in 1410. As an engraver,
Michelozzo learned how to
cast, chase, and gild copper and bronze, two of the metals in which
the Medieval and
Renaissance goldsmith most commonly worked. He also
gained immense precision of hand and a mastery of sculptural design in
Beginning in the early 1420s,
Michelozzo became a member of the Arte
di Maestri di Pietra e Legname, one of the Guilds of
represented the master stonemasons, wood-carvers, and sculptors. He
later served as one of the consuls of the Guild in 1430.
Throughout his life,
Michelozzo retained the family residence on Via
Larga, which was near the Medici Palace and next door to the humanist
Bartolomeo Scala. In addition,
Michelozzo possessed a house and garden
in S. Domino a Brozzi.
Michelozzo's father died sometime before 1427, and his mother passed
sometime between 1433 and 1442.
Beginning in 1420,
Michelozzo studied under Lorenzo Ghiberti.
Michelozzo's first projects with Ghiberti was the North Door of the
Baptistry between the years 1417 and 1423/4, in which Michelozzo's
responsibilities "could only have been in the chasing and gilding of
the panels, possibly in casting the four late reliefs...and in the
frame....Most of his work on the doors is submerged, like that of the
other assistants, in the force of Ghiberti's design and
personality." From this,
Michelozzo learned how to run a closely
supervised shop, how to organize it efficiently, how to train and
control assistants, and how to deal shrewdly in business and financial
affairs. "He was exposed to Ghiberti's use of antique motifs, he
absorbed Ghiberti's ability in juxtaposing antique and Gothic
elements, and he was undoubtedly influenced by Ghiberti's style and
artistic concepts." While working under Ghiberti, Michelozzo
created the statue of the young St. John over the door of the Duomo in
Florence, opposite the Baptistery, along with the silver statuette of
John the Baptist
John the Baptist on the altar-frontal of San Giovanni.
Michelozzo assisted in the building of the sacristy
of Santa Trinita, where "Ghiberti [had] started to fuse together
late-Gothic and antique forms." Both
Michelozzo began as
sculptors with an uncompromising dedication to antiquity, and this was
Donatello enlisted Michelozzo's help in the decoration of
the tabernacle of St. Louis of Toulouse.
Michelozzo also became the
partner responsible for the architectural frames of Donatello's
sculptures such as the funerary monument of John XXIII. In 1428,
together with Donatello,
Michelozzo erected an open-air pulpit at an
angle of the Cathedral of St. Stephen at Prato, designed for the
regular public displays of their famous relic, the Girdle of Thomas
(Sacra Cintola). Though
Donatello is the more well-known of the two,
"it would be a mistake to underrate Michelozzo's share in the work,
Donatello appears as the sole designer of architectural
ornament his style is quite different. He completely subordinates the
architectural setting to his sculpture and makes architecture, so to
speak, its handmaid. The beautiful ornamental sculpture in
Sagrestia Vecchia shows how far
Donatello would go with
his sculpture in order to provide it with an effective frame in the
extraordinarily vigorous modelling of the broad, slanting surrounds of
his overdoors and medallions." 
Influences and Patronage
Cosimo dei Medici
The facade of
Palazzo Medici in Florence.
Few historians have disputed Cosimo's close relationship to
Michelozzo, who was the Medici architect for nearly forty years.
Michelozzo was more agreeable and accessible to the advice and
desires of Cosimo than the turbulent Brunelleschi, and was willing to
follow the strong personal tastes of his patron." Their
relationship was best described by Angelo Fabroni in 1789, who said:
Michelozzo dearly and relied on him, not only because of
his natural talents (he considered nobody, not even Brunelleschi,
superior in all architectural judgments), but also because of his good
qualities and worthy character."
Michelozzo enjoyed a close relationship to Cosimo dei Medici
throughout his life, and according to
Giorgio Vasari in The Lives of
the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, from Cimabue
to Our Times, was motivated by his great love and fidelity for Cosimo
to accompany him into exile in Venice from 1433 to 1434. Historians
have cited this as an unparalleled example of esteem between artist
Vasari also claimed that
Michelozzo built the library of
San Giorgio Monastery
San Giorgio Monastery in 1434 for Cosimo, though this claim
contradicts the original description and documents of the library,
which indicate that although the library's construction was started by
Cosimo, it was largely built under the direction of Medici bank
manager Giovanni d'Orino Lanfredini between 1467 and 1478, which was
well after Michelozzo's departure from Venice.
Palazzo Medici in Florence, built by Cosimo, was designed by
him; it is one of the noblest specimens of Italian fifteenth-century
architecture, in which the great taste and skill of the architect has
combined the delicate lightness of the earlier Italian Gothic with the
massive stateliness of the classical style. With great engineering
Michelozzo shored up, and partly rebuilt, the Palazzo Vecchio,
then in a ruinous condition, and added to it many important rooms and
staircases. When, in 1437, through Cosimo's liberality, the monastery
of San Marco at
Florence was handed over to the Dominicans of Fiesole,
Michelozzo was employed to rebuild the domestic part and remodel the
church. For Cosimo he designed numerous other buildings, most of them
of noteworthy importance. Among these were a guest-house at Jerusalem
for the use of Florentine pilgrims, Cosimo's summer villa at Careggi,
and the fortified castello that he rebuilt from 1452 as the Villa
Medicea di Cafaggiolo in Mugello. For Giovanni de' Medici, Cosimo's
son, he also built a very large villa at Fiesole. Between 1445 and
1451, he also expanded Villa San Girolamo next to Villa Medici at the
behest of Cosimo.
According to "Architecture in Italy, 1400-1500, Volume 53",
Michelozzo's architecture contrasts with Brunelleschi in its closer
adherence to the "immediately preceding Gothic tradition, the Gothic
classicism which appears in the Loggia dei Lanzi or the monastery of
S. Matteo." Ludwig Heydenreich and Paul Davies argue that all of
Michelozzo's buildings are "works of considerable standing...the most
independent architect after Brunelleschi."
Michelozzo married Francesca, daughter of Piero di Ambrogio Galligari,
in late January or February 1441. At the time of their marriage, she
was 20 years old, and he was 45. Francesca's dowry of 425 florins
was about average for an upper-middle-class family at that time. The
size of her dowry indicates a considerable rise in Michelozzo's social
Michelozzo launched a legal complaint to remove himself from
the responsibility of his two older brothers' debts. Andrea di Benozo,
representative for Giovanni, Zanobi, and Michelozzo, elected
arbitrators to weigh the complaints. After studying documents and
proofs for six weeks, the arbitrators found that the two brothers were
the cause behind most of Michelozzo's debts, and they were required to
relinquish their inheritance in partial compensation for the amounts
Four boys and three girls resulted from Michelozzo's marriage to
Francesca, of whom five survived their father. Bartolomeo, who became
a sculptor, was born in 1442; Piero in 1443; Antonia in 1445; Niccolo
in 1447; Marietta in 1453; Bernardo in 1455; and Lisabetta in 1459.
Two of his sons, Niccolò and Bernardo, were partially educated by the
Medici and may have lived in the
Palazzo Medici during their youth.
They later achieved success in the highest humanistic circles of
Bernardo became a member of the household of Lorenzo il Magnifico as
the tutor of Piero de Medici. In 1500, he was made a Florentine canon
and was employed by Giovanni de Medici, first as his Chamberlain and
then as his Secretary and Referendary.
Like Bernardo, Niccolò studied with Ficino from a young age and took
part in the Platonic Academy, where he formed friendships with other
Florentine humanists who shared his love for antiquity. He excelled in
literature and philosophy, and he later became secretary to Piero di
Cosimo and continued in the post under Piero di Lorenzo. In 1469,
Niccolò began his political career as a notary in the Florentine
Cancelleria, and he was often sent on important missions as ambassador
for the Florentine Republic between 1489 and 1494. Following the
downfall of the Medici, he was imprisoned for a brief time before
clearing his name in 1496 and becoming the precounsel of the Arte dei
Giucidi e notai and later succeeded Niccolò Machiavalli as the Second
Chancellor of the Republic in 1513.
The courtyard of
Palazzo Medici Riccardi.
When Cosimo began building the
Palazzo Medici in 1444, he passed over
Brunelleschi and gave his preference to Michelozzo. Like the exterior
of the Palazzo Comunale in Montefiascone, that of the Palazzo Medici
follows the tradition of the Tuscan late-medieval palazzo, but without
the more eye-catching symbols of civic power, which would have been
incompatible with Cosimo's role as primus inter pares and pater
patriae. The palazzo's exterior is not articulated by Vitruvian
orders, and its big arches of its ground floor are not aligned with
the windows of the upper stories. Instead,
Michelozzo focused on the
contrast between surface textures, such as the contrast between "the
natural rustication of the ground floor, the flat ashlared courses of
the piano nobile and the smooth masonry of the upper storey." The
exterior also differs from the palazzo in
Montepulciano in its size,
its more urbane character, and its massive classicizing cornice. "In
its succession of dentils, egg-and-dart and consoles, Michelozzo
directly followed the
Temple of Serapis
Temple of Serapis in Rome."
Brunelleschi's influence on
Michelozzo is evident in the palazzo's
design, especially in the late-medieval bifora-windows, the symmetry
and the dominance of the entrance axis, and the combination of
traditional and progressive elements. The arcades and entablature of
the palazzo's courtyard also follows the model of the loggia of the
Spedale degli Innocenti, which is symptomatically Brunelleschi's
earliest and most un-Vitruvian building.
One of Michelozzo's most well-known architectural projects, the palace
led to the development of a new architectural type: the Florentine
Renaissance palace. Among the many
Michelozzo innovations on the
facade, the most notable include: "the use of bugnato digradante
(large unevenly-cut stones which grow lighter as they ascend on the
upper stories), the classical columns and fluted capitals in the
bifore windows, the great classical cornice crowning the building and
the small ones dividing the stories, the massive rectangular
proportions of the block of square, and the regularity of the
disposition of the windows, which, however, are asymmetrical in regard
to the doors."
San Marco in Florence
The fundamental basis of all monastic compounds built by architects
during the Renaissance, this was one of Michelozzo's first and most
influential architectural projects in Florence. Constructed at the
expense of Cosimo dei Medici, the project began sometime between the
years 1437 and 1438. Reconstruction included the church, sacristy,
cloister, monastic living quarters, and the library. San Marco has
been called the first
Renaissance church, though it seems to be a
compromise between the Trecento tradition and the
The plain white walls without frescos differ from the coloristic
tradition of the Trecento and were essential to Michelozzo's
architectural concepts and preference for large, unadorned surfaces,
subtly articulated by necessary structural members in grey pietra
serena. Like many of his projects, San Marco was constructed with
incredible rapidity. Unlike Brunelleschi,
Michelozzo was able to
finish what he started, largely due to Michelozzo's efficiency and due
to the availability of adequate financing from Cosimo throughout the
The first part undertaken by
Michelozzo was "the rebuilding of the old
refectory, where a low vault, supported by consoles much like those in
the sacristy at S. Trinita, was built to sustsain the cells above.
Work began on the church in 1438 and was probably completed three
years later, though certainly by 1443 when it was consecrated by Pope
Eugene. Using the perimeter of the former Trecento church, Michelozzo
added a polygonal apse, similar in form to that at Bosco ai Frati; it
was lighted by three long round arch pietra serena windows which can
still be seen in the upper story of the convent. The pointed entrance
arch rested on two pilasters with large, classical Corinthian capitals
surmounted by a dado decorated with the Medici balls (also still
visible). In front of the apse was the Capella Maggiore, covered with
groin vaulting. The nave was a single open space without aisles,
adorned with ediculas or altars (three on each side), and covred with
a wooden beamed ceiling. Separating the nave and the Cappella Maggiore
was a high wall (tramezzo) with two doors. In the later remodelling of
the church, the wall was removed and the doors were transferred to the
polygonal apse where they are now located. Their fluted pilasters are
crowned with composite capitals identical to those in the Barbadori
Chapel in S. Felicita by Brunelleschi, and above the architrave with
classical mouldings, the frieze is decorated, like the capitals at
Bosco ai Frati, with the Medici balls."
Choir of the Santissima Annunziata
Commissioned by Lodovico Gonzaga, lord of Mantua and general of the
Florentine troops, the choir was created in commemoration of Gonzaga's
father and "for the celebration of masses for his soul." Cosimo had
Michelozzo with the construction of the church's
vestibulum and atrium in order to continue Brunelleschi's idea of a
forum all'antica. In designing the Santissima Annunziata, Michelozzo
followed the model of the
Minerva Medica in Rome, making the inner
plan round, creating a dome that was as hemispheric the Pantheon, and
detailing it with a ten-sided exterior with deep, over-semicircular
chapels. He also opted for a drum and a dome without ribs. Though the
Santissima Annunziata was Michelozzo's attempt to surpass Brunelleschi
on his ground, "a comparison of the two ground plans suffices to show
how utterly superior Brunelleschi's is."
In the May 1966 issue of The Burlington Magazine, Howard Saalman wrote
that "the language of the details of the Ex-Dormitory and the
Ex-Library wing points to Michelozzo. If
Vasari is right and
Michelozzo did work at Santa Croce (and there is no reason to doubt it
in spite of the lack of documentation) then
Michelozzo and his circle
probably handled the entire operation as at San Marco, SS. Annunziata
Michelozzo added various parts to the church and cloister of Santa
Croce, including "the loggia in front of the Ex-Dormitory and Library
(octagonal columns with foglie d'acqua capitals) which originally
extended across the cloister to the elevated loggia on the south side
of the church, running along the eastern flank of the San Giuliano
(Mellini) Chapel...which divided the first cloister into two parts
before its destruction in the nineteenth century." Additionally,
the Cerchi Chapel on "the ground floor of the Ex-Library wing at the
end adjacent to the Ex-Refectory is evidently inserted into older
peripheral walls which survived the 1423 fire. The language of the
details (pilasters flanking the opening into the little square choir,
capitals of the lunette vaults of the hall in front of the choir -
which overlap older windows in the side walls) is that of the
Other Notable Works
From 1461 through 1464, he constructed the walls of
Ston in Dalmatia,
the largest medieval wall in Europe.
Death and legacy
Cloister of San Marco in Florence
In spite of Vasari's statement that he died at the age of sixty-eight,
he appears to have lived until 1472. He is buried in the monastery of
San Marco, Florence.
One of the most influential, yet unknown, architects of the Early
Renaissance, Michelozzo's designs paved the way for the rapid
development of the Central Italian Palazzo type. He developed the
aisleless church and became the pioneer of a plan-type of sacred
building, which is the most important in modern times. He transformed
secular building and his adaptability in use of traditional forms
enabled him to evolve good compromise solutions for distant regions,
Lombardy and Damatia.
In his careful treatment of architectural ornament, "
able to adopt ideas and turn them to good account as well as to
transmit new ones. The styles of Manetti, Bernardo Rossellino,
Giuliano da Maiano, and even of Giuliano da Sangallo are unimaginable
without the support and influence of Michelozzo's artistic idiom in
addition to that of Brunelleschi, and later, of Donatello."
Tomb of Antipope John XXIII
Tomb of Cardinal Rainaldo Brancacci
Walls of Dubrovnik
Palazzo dello Strozzino
San Girolamo, Volterra
Villa San Girolamo
^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Caplow, Harriet McNeal (1977).
Michelozzo. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc. pp. 537–538.
^ Fabriczy, Cornelius von.
Michelozzo di Bartolommeo.
^ Lightbrown, R.W. (1980).
Donatello & Michelozzo: An Artistic
Partnership and its Patrons in the Early Renaissance. London: Harvey
^ a b c d Heydenreich, Ludwig Heinrich (1974). Architecture in Italy,
1400-1500, Volume 53. Yale University Press. p. 30.
^ Fabroni, Angelo (1789). Magni Cosmi Medicei Vita. p. 154.
^ "I Luoghi della Fede: Chiesa di San Girolamo". web.rete.toscana.it.
Archived from the original on 21 June 2017. Retrieved 7 February
^ Martines, Lauro (2011). "The Social World of the Florentine
Humanists, 1390-1460". University of Toronto Press, Scholarly
Publishing Division. ISBN 978-1442611825.
^ a b c d Frommel, Christoph Luitpold (2007). The Architecture of the
Italian Renaissance. New York: Thames & Hudson Ltd, London.
^ a b c Saalman, Howard (1966). "
Michelozzo Studies". The Burlington
Magazine (Vol. 108, No. 758): 242–250.
^ What to visit in Stagno. Croatian tourist website Archived
2012-01-18 at the Wayback Machine. (in Italian)
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "
Bartolommeo". Encyclopædia Britannica. 18 (11th ed.). Cambridge
University Press. p. 371.
Caplow, Harriet McNeal. Michelozzo, 2 vols. New York: Garland, 1977.
Ferrara, Miranda, and Francesco Quinterio.
Michelozzo di Bartolomeo.
Florence: Salimbeni, 1984.
Lightbown, Ronald W.
Donatello and Michelozzo: an artistic partnership
and its patrons in the early Renaissance. London: H. Miller, 1980.
Michelozzo: scultore e architetto (1396–1472). Florence: Centro Di,
Maria Carchio, Roberto Manescalchi, La scoperta di un Michelozzo
inedito: una scala dimenticata nel convento dell’Annunziata,
Firenze, Ananke n°43, settembre, 2004.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Michelozzo.
The Gubbio Studiolo and its conservation, volumes 1 & 2, from The
Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries (fully available online as PDF),
which contains material on Michelozzo(see index)
Firenze by Net
Artist Biography site
Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "
Michelozzo di Bartolommeo".
Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
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