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Filippo Brunelleschi

“Most of what is known about Brunelleschi’s life and career is based on a biography written in the 1480s by an admiring younger contemporary identified as Antonio di Tuccio Manetti.”

Born in Florence, Italy, in 1377, Filippo Brunelleschi was a Renaissance-era architect and engineer. Known for his work on churches and religious structures, Brunelleschi’s major work is the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) in Florence, where he is now buried..

(born 1377, Florence [Italy]—died April 15, 1446, Florence) architect and engineer who was one of the pioneers of early Renaissance architecture in Italy. His major work is the dome of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) in Florence (1420–36), constructed with the aid of machines that Brunelleschi invented expressly for the project. Most of what is known about Brunelleschi’s life and career is based on a biography written in the 1480s by an admiring younger contemporary identified as Antonio di Tuccio Manetti.

Brunelleschi was the second of three sons of Ser Brunellesco di Lippo Lapi, a Florentine notary of some distinction, and Giuliana Spini. After training as a goldsmith and sculptor, he applied for registration in the Arte della Seta and in 1401 was designated a master. Brunelleschi competed with Lorenzo Ghiberti and five other sculptors in 1401 to obtain the commission to make the bronze reliefs for the door of the Baptistery of Florence. Brunelleschi’s trial panel depicting “The Sacrifice of Isaac” is the high point of his career as a sculptor. His ability to arrest narrative action at the moment of its greatest dramatic impact and the vigorous gestures and animated expressions of the figures account for the merit of his panel. It was Ghiberti, however, who was declared the winner of the commission. Brunelleschi’s extreme disappointment at losing the commission probably accounted for his decision to concentrate his talents on architecture instead of sculpture.

While still in the early phase of his architectural career (probably c.1410–15), Brunelleschi rediscovered the principles of linear-perspective construction known to the Greeks and Romans but buried along with many other aspects of ancient civilization during the European Middle Ages. Brunelleschi demonstrated his findings with two painted panels, now lost, depicting Florentine streets and buildings. From Manetti’s descriptions it is clear that Brunelleschi had understood the concept of a single vanishing point, toward which all parallel lines drawn on the same plane appear to converge, and the principle of the relationship between distance and the diminution of objects as they appear to recede in space. By using the optical and geometric principles upon which Brunelleschi’s perspective devices were based, the artists of his generation were able to produce works of astonishing realism. On two-dimensional surfaces they were able to create extraordinary illusions of three-dimensional space and tangible objects, so that the work of art appeared to be either an extension of the real world or a mirror of nature. Although the laws governing perspective construction were brought to light by Brunelleschi, they were codified for the first time by the humanist architect Leon Battista Alberti. In 1435 Alberti set them down in Della pittura (“On Painting”), his famous treatise on painting, which included a warm dedication to Brunelleschi—undoubtedly an expression of Alberti’s

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