Died At Age: 69
Also Known As: Filippo di ser Brunellesco di Lippo Lapi
Born Country: Italy
Born in: Florence
Famous as: Architect
Spouse/Ex-: Giuliana Spini
father: Brunellesco di Lippo
mother: Giuliana Spini
Died on: April 15, 1446
place of death: Florence
Who was Filippo Brunelleschi?
Filippo Brunelleschi was a 15th-century Italian architect and designer. Widely regarded as a founding father of Renaissance architecture, as well as the first modern engineer, planner, and sole construction supervisor, Brunelleschi is best known as the designer of the dome of the Florence Cathedral, an engineering accomplishment that had not been achieved since antiquity. He also garnered fame for coming up with the mathematical technique of linear perspective in art which dictated pictorial depictions of space until the late 19th century and played a significant role in the development of modern science. Born in an affluent family, Brunelleschi started an apprenticeship with the Arte della Seta, the silk merchants' guild, when he was 22 years old. As a master goldsmith and sculptor, he began constructing products out of cast bronze. In later years, he stopped making sculptures and exclusively focused on architecture and optics. His other achievements were in the fields of mathematics, engineering, and ship design. Most of his surviving works are kept in Florence, Italy.
Childhood & Early Life
Born Filippo di ser Brunellesco di Lippo Lapi in 1377, in Florence, Republic of Florence, Brunelleschi was the son of Brunellesco di Lippo and Giuliana Spini. He and his two brothers grew up in a well-to-do household. His father was a notary and civil servant. Their home can still be found across from the Church of the Trinita in Florence.
Initially, the plan for him was that he would follow in his father’s footsteps and become a civil servant. Because of this, he studied literature and mathematics. However, it was not long before he started demonstrating his artistic talents.
When he was 22 years old, he started his apprenticeship with a silk merchants’ guild. The wealthiest and most prestigious guild in the city, the Arte della Seta was comprised of various craftsmen making luxury products, including jewellery and metal craft.
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Career & Later Life
In 1398, Brunelleschi became a master of goldsmithery and sculpting. He participated in a competition to land the job of creating the bronze reliefs for the door of the Baptistery of Florence along with Lorenzo Ghiberti and five other sculptors.
He made a trial panel that showed the sacrifice of Isaac, which is regarded as his best work as a sculptor. However, the commission ultimately went to Ghiberti, and Brunelleschi, who did not like to lose at anything, exclusively focused on architecture and optics from then on.
Brunelleschi was one of the major Renaissance architects who used the structures and artwork of antiquity as the predominant source of inspiration. Sometime between 1402 and 1404, he travelled to Rome, likely with his friend and sculptor, Donatello.
His subsequent exposure to the ruins, many people speculate, helped him in coming up with his system of linear perspective. Some historians contradict this, pointing out, among other things, that Brunelleschi was too busy at the time.
Brunelleschi conducted a series of experiments and displayed his findings with two painted panels, which have since gone missing, showing Florentine streets and buildings.
According to Antonio Manetti, one of his biographers, Brunelleschi was aware of the notion of a single vanishing point, where the apparent convergence of all parallel lines drawn on the same plane occur and the theory of the relationship between distance and the diminution of objects as they seem to fade in space.
In the ensuing years, Brunelleschi’s contemporary artists would create works of exceptional realism by utilizing the optical and geometric theories with which he created his perspective devices. Using two-dimensional surfaces, they managed to build astonishing illusions of three-dimensional space and tangible objects, making the work of art seems like an extension of the real world or a mirror of nature.
While Brunelleschi conceptualised the laws governing perspective construction, it was the humanist architect Leon Battista Alberti who wrote them down in his 1435 treatise ‘Della pittura’.
Filippo Brunelleschi’s debut project as an architect was ‘Ospedale degli Innocenti’ (1419-45), or the Foundling Hospital, which was established as a home for orphans. Like his other architectural projects, this structure was finished much later, with a significant amount of modifications, by architects other than him. He was officially affiliated with the project until 1427 but seldom visited the site after 1423. It was Francesco della Luna who finished the project in 1445.
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Brunelleschi began designing his next great project, the Basilica of San Lorenzo (1421-42), right after he started the Foundling Hospital. The Medici family, who would become his long-time patron, sponsored this project. The largest church in Florence, it was later completed by several other architects, including Michelangelo. The remains of the members of the Medici family are housed there.
He started working on the Basilica of Santo Spirito in 1434, and the construction was completed in 1466, two decades after his death.
In 1429, Andrea Pazzi hired him to build the Pazzi Chapel, the Chapter House that was to serve as a meeting place for the monks of the Monastery of Santa Croce. As with most of his works, the construction started late, in 1442, and the interior was completed only in 1444.
Commissioned by Florentine merchants Matteo and Andrea Scolari, Santa Maria degli Angeli is one of Brunelleschi’s unfinished projects. While designing it, he envisioned the structure as a rotunda in an octagon shape, with eight equal sides, each comprised of a chapel, and the altar located in the centre. This was a revolutionary concept as the churches of the Romanesque and Gothic periods were designed like a cross.
The construction began in 1434 but stopped three years later when Florence went to war with Lucca. The church would later be completed with a different design.
The construction of the dome of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore was the biggest achievement of his career. Winning the commission over his old rival Lorenzo Ghiberti, Brunelleschi spent the rest of his life perfecting the design. The actual work on the dome began in 1446, the same year he passed away, and was completed in 1461.
In 1421, Brunelleschi acquired what is considered to be one of earliest modern patents for a river transport vessel he made. He was also a prolific shipbuilder.
According to records, he created hydraulic machinery and elaborate clockwork, both of which are now lost. Furthermore, Brunelleschi actively took part in urban planning and constructing military fortifications.
Family & Personal Life
Much of what we know about Filippo Brunelleschi’s life comes from Manetti’s biography of the esteemed architect which he wrote in the 1480s. Another prominent Brunelleschi biographer was Giorgio Vasari.
Brunelleschi did not father any children of his own. However, he raised Andrea de Lazzaro Cavalcanti, who later adopted the name Il Buggiano, which was originally the name of his birthplace. Il Buggiano became Brunelleschi’s only heir.
While he was part of the guild of the silk merchants, he was not a member of the guild of stone and wood masters, despite being an architect. In 1434, he was apprehended by the authorities after the masters of the guild of stone and wood complained against him for illegal trade practices. Not long after, he was freed and the charges of false imprisonment were brought against the masters.
Death & Legacy
Filippo Brunelleschi passed away on April 15, 1446, in Florence, at the age of 68 or 69. His remains are kept in the crypt of the Cathedral of Florence. A statue of Brunelleschi was later erected in the square in front of the cathedral, with its face pointed upwards at his dome.
In the Italian-British historical drama series ‘Medici: Masters of Florence’ (2016-present), Italian actor Alessandro Preziosi was cast as Brunelleschi.