gigatos | January 14, 2022
Filippo Brunelleschi, in full Filippo di ser Brunellesco Lapi (Florence, 1377 – Florence, April 15, 1446), was an Italian Renaissance architect, engineer, sculptor, mathematician, goldsmith and set designer.
Considered the first architect and designer of the modern age, Brunelleschi was one of the three great initiators of the Florentine Renaissance with Donatello and Masaccio. In particular, Brunelleschi, who was the eldest, was the point of reference for the other two and to him we owe the invention of single vanishing point perspective, or “linear centric perspective.” After an apprenticeship as a goldsmith and a career as a sculptor, he devoted himself mainly to architecture, constructing, almost exclusively in Florence, both secular and religious buildings that set the standard. Among these is the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, an engineering masterpiece built without the aid of traditional techniques, such as the centina.
With Brunelleschi was born the figure of the modern architect who, in addition to being involved in the technical and operational processes, like the medieval master builders, also has a substantial and conscious role in the design phase: he no longer exercises a merely “mechanical” art, but is now an intellectual who practices a “liberal art”, based on mathematics, geometry and historical knowledge.
His architecture is characterized by the realization of monumental works of rhythmic clarity, built starting from a basic measure (module) corresponding to whole numbers, expressed in Florentine fathoms, from which it derives multiples and submultiples to obtain the proportions of an entire building. He resumed the classical architectural orders and the use of the round arch, indispensable for the geometric-mathematical rationalization of the plans and elevations. A distinctive feature of his work is also the purity of form, obtained with an essential and rigorous use of decorative elements. Typical in this sense was the use of gray stone for the architectural members, which stood out on the light plaster of the walls.
Origins and apprenticeship (1377-1398)
Filippo Brunelleschi was the son of the notary ser Brunellesco di Filippo Lapi and Giuliana di Giovanni Spinelli. More or less the same age as Lorenzo Ghiberti (born in 1378) and Jacopo della Quercia (1371-1374 approx.), he grew up in a wealthy family, which, however, was not related to the noble Florentine Brunelleschi to whom a street in the center of Florence is still dedicated. His father was a loyal and esteemed professional, who was often in charge of embassies, such as the one in 1364, when he was sent to Vienna to meet the emperor Charles IV. The family home was located towards the end of Via Larga (now Via Cavour). He had the house where he lived and worked in Via degli Agli, near the ancient Piazza Padella, near the church of San Michele Bertelde in Florence (now San Gaetano). Today the Piazza and Via Degli Agli have disappeared.
Philip received a good education, learning to read and write. Through the study of the abacus he was able to learn the notions of mathematics and practical geometry that were part of the cognitive baggage of every good merchant, including the notions of perspective, which at that time indicated the practice of calculating measures and distances inaccessible with a direct survey. With time his culture had to be enriched by the subjects of the crossroads, as well as by personal readings (the sacred texts and Dante in the first place) and the direct knowledge of illustrious personages, such as Niccolò Niccoli, humanist and bibliophile, and the politician Gregorio Dati. In those years was born in him also the interest for painting and drawing, which became his main inclination. His father consented to his son”s choice, without insisting that he follow in his footsteps in legal studies, and put him in the workshop of a goldsmith friend of the family, perhaps Benincasa Lotti, from whom Filippo learned to melt and cast metals, to work with the chisel, with the embossing, with the niello, to practice bezels of precious stones, enamels and ornamental reliefs, but above all he practiced drawing in depth, the basis for all artistic disciplines.
His first biographer, the student Antonio di Tuccio Manetti, reported how in the period of his apprenticeship came out of his hands mechanical watches and a “destatoio”, one of the first documented mentions of an alarm clock.
The altar of San Jacopo (1399-1401)
Towards the end of the century his apprenticeship could be said to be concluded. In 1398 Philip enrolled in the Art of Silk, then enrolled as a goldsmith in 1404. Between 1400 and 1401 he went to Pistoia following the workshop of Lunardo di Mazzeo and Piero di Giovanni da Pistoia to work on the completion of the altar of San Jacopo, a precious silver altar-reliquary still preserved in the cathedral of San Zeno. In the contract of allocation, dated 1399, he was named as “Pippo da Firenze”, entrusting him with some works in particular. To his hand are attributed the statuettes of Saint Augustine and of the seated Evangelist (perhaps Saint John) and two busts within quadrilobes of the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah (the latter is not clearly identified): they are his first known works. In these early works one can already see a refined execution, with a well-modeled and firm body structure, which dialogues with the surrounding space through eloquent gestures and twists.
The Sacrifice of Isaac (1401-1402)
In 1401 the Consuls of the Art of Calimala announced the competition for the realization of the second bronze door of the Florentine Baptistery. The participants were asked to construct a panel with the theme of the sacrifice of Isaac, arranging the figures of Abraham in the act of sacrificing his son on an altar, the angel who intervenes to stop him, the ram that is to be immolated in Isaac”s place and finally the group with the donkey and the two servants. Brunelleschi divided the scene in two: the donkey at the bottom, with the servants next to it, who tend to overflow out of the frame. The scene on the left is a quotation from the Spinario: this group forms the basis for the pyramidal construction of the upper part of the panel. Here, at the top, is depicted the clash of the three wills of the protagonists of the scene, culminating in the knot of Abraham”s hands, whose backward body is emphasized by the fluttering of his mantle as he clutches Isaac”s neck, deformed by terror and bent in the opposite direction to his father”s body, while the angel stops Abraham by grabbing his arm.
In the competition, according to his first biographer Antonio Manetti, he won on an equal footing with Lorenzo Ghiberti who, however, refused to collaborate with him because their styles were different, and the work was awarded only to Ghiberti, who completed the baptistery door.
The journey to Rome (1402-1404)
Disappointed by the outcome of the competition – taking advantage of the moment of relative political tranquillity that lasted from the death of Gian Galeazzo Visconti (1402) until that of Bonifacio IX (1404), with the entry of the King of Naples Ladislao into the City – in 1402 Brunelleschi went to Rome to study “the antique”, with Donatello, then in his twenties, with whom he was establishing an intense friendship. The Roman stay was crucial for the artistic events of both. Here they could observe the copious ancient remains, copy them and study them for inspiration. Vasari tells how the two wandered in the city depopulated in search of “pieces of capitals, columns, frames and bases of buildings”, starting to dig when they saw them emerge from the ground. The couple was mockingly called “the treasure diggers”, since they were thought to be digging for buried treasures, and in fact on a few occasions they found precious materials, such as some cameos or carved hard stones or even a jug full of medals. By 1404 Donatello had already returned to Florence, to collaborate with Ghiberti in the creation of wax models for the door of the Baptistery. Filippo still remained in Rome, paying his lodging with occasional work as a goldsmith. In the meantime his interest shifted from sculpture to architecture, dedicating himself, according to Manetti, to the study of Roman buildings, trying to understand their secrets and structural details. Brunelleschi focused mainly on the proportions of the buildings and the recovery of ancient construction techniques. In the following years he had to return to Florence, where he is documented but not continuously, probably moving back to Rome on several occasions.
The return to Florence (1404-1409)
Since 1404 he was consulted in Florence for important art issues, first of all the construction site of Santa Maria del Fiore, for which he provided technical advice and models, such as the one about a buttress (1404).
The years of the first decade of the fifteenth century are described by the biographers with various anecdotes, such as that of the Roman sarcophagus seen in the cathedral of Cortona by Donatello, that Brunelleschi went sitting on the spot to copy, or that of the joke to the woodsman Manetto di Jacopo Ammannatini said the Fat (dated by biographers to 1409), who for shame would have decided to emigrate to Hungary in the wake of Pippo Spano.
The Crucifix of Santa Maria Novella (1410 circa)
Brunelleschi”s main activity until about 1440 was as a sculptor, and even after the completion of the great buildings for which he is most famous he continued to receive occasional sculpture commissions.
Sources and documents mention various sculptural works of his youth, including a Mary Magdalene for Santo Spirito that has not reached us, perhaps destroyed in the fire of 1471. It remains instead the Crucifix datable around 1410-1415.
Vasari reports with great detail a curious anecdote about Brunelleschi”s reaction to the sight of Donatello”s crucifix of Santa Croce, which he found too “peasant” and in response to which he sculpted his own. In reality, the most recent studies tend to deny the episode, placing the two works at a distance between two and ten years apart, even if it is very likely that the two friends had the opportunity to discuss the subject.
If Donatello”s Christ was caught in the moment of agony with half-open eyes, open mouth and ungainly body, that of Brunelleschi was marked by a solemn gravitas, with a careful study of proportions and anatomy of the naked body, according to an essential style inspired by the ancient. It is perfectly inscribed in a square, with open arms that measure exactly as high. According to Luciano Bellosi, Brunelleschi”s sculpture would be “the first Renaissance work in the history of art”, a reference point for later developments by Donatello, Nanni di Banco and Masaccio.
The statues for Orsanmichele (1412 circa-1415)
At the beginning of the second decade of the fifteenth century Brunelleschi and Donatello were called upon to participate in the decoration of the niches of Orsanmichele. According to Vasari and other sixteenth-century sources (but not the biography of Antonio Manetti), the two received the joint commission for San Pietro dell”Arte dei Beccaii and San Marco dell”Arte dei Linaioli e Rigattieri, but Brunelleschi soon declined the work, leaving the field open to his colleague. Recent critics have attributed the San Pietro, datable to 1412, to Brunelleschi, for the very high quality of the work, with the old-fashioned dress, as in one of the statues of the ancient Romans, the thin and sinewy wrists, as in the Sacrifice of Isaac, the heads with the deep eyebrows, the wrinkles that furrow the forehead and the energetic features of the nose that recall the reliefs of the silver altar of San Jacopo in Pistoia. The San Marco instead, datable to 1413, is a work unanimously attributed to Donatello and seems to be inspired by the attitude of the San Pietro.
Some, more prudently, prefer to speak of a Master of San Pietro di Orsanmichele, to whom is also attributed the Madonna and Child of the museum of Palazzo Davanzati in Florence, known in many copies including one in polychrome wood at the Bargello Museum.
In 1412 Brunelleschi was in Prato, invited to give advice on the facade of the cathedral.
In 1415 he renovated the Ponte a mare in Pisa, now destroyed, and the same year he consulted with Donatello to design sculptures to be placed on the spurs of Florence Cathedral, including a giant statue in gilded lead, which apparently was never made.
The invention of linear perspective (circa 1416)
Brunelleschi was the inventor of the single vanishing point perspective, which was the most typical and characterizing element in the artistic representations of the Florentine and Italian Renaissance in general.
During his youth he certainly had to deal with notions of optics, including those of perspectiva, which at the time indicated a method for calculating distances and lengths by comparing them with known dimensions. Thanks perhaps to his friendship with Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli, Brunelleschi was able to expand his knowledge, arriving then to formulate the rules of linear centric geometric “perspective” as we understand it today, that is, as a method of representation to create an illusionistically real world.
In order to reach such an important goal, which marked in a crucial way the western figuration, Brunelleschi used two wooden tablets, built before 1416, with urban views painted on them, both lost but known through the descriptions made by Leon Battista Alberti.
The first panel was square in shape, with the long side about 29 cm, and represented a view of the Baptistery of Florence from the central portal of Santa Maria del Fiore. The left and the right were interchanged, since it had to be looked at through a mirror, placing the eye in a hole at the bottom of the central axis of the panel itself and holding the mirror with the arm. Some tricks had been taken to give a natural effect to the image: the sky in the panel was covered with silver paper, in order to reflect natural atmospheric light, and the hole was flared, wider near the painted surface, smaller on the side where the eye rested.
First of all, Brunelleschi, standing inside the portal, could note a “visual pyramid”, that is, that portion of visible space in front of him not hidden by the jambs. Similarly, if he put his eye in the hole, a visual pyramid was generated, which had its center at the exact point of the hole. This made it possible to fix a unique and fixed point of view, which was impossible to obtain with full-field views.
To measure distances (using the method of similar triangles, well known at the time) it was sufficient to put a parallel mirror of the same shape in front of the tablet and calculate how much distance was needed to frame the entire image: the smaller the mirror, the further away it had to be. It was thus possible to establish a constant proportional relationship between the painted image and the image reflected in the mirror (measurable in all dimensions), and to calculate the distance between the real objects (the real Baptistery) and the point of observation, using a system of proportions. From this it was possible to draw a sort of perspective framework useful for artistic representation, and furthermore, the existence of the vanishing point towards which the objects shrank was demonstrated.
A second panel, where a representation of Piazza della Signoria seen from the corner of Via de” Calzaiuoli was taken, was even simpler to use, since it did not require the use of a reflecting mirror (it was enough to close one eye) and therefore was not inverted. On the tablet the sky above the buildings had been cut away, so it was enough to superimpose the painted image on the real image until they coincided and calculate the distances. In this case it was easier to define the representation on the tablet within a visual pyramid, which had the vertex on the vanishing point and the base at the height of the viewer”s eye.
In both experiments was given great importance to the natural sky, in fact in those years matured the break with the medieval tradition and its abstract gold backgrounds or, at most, lapis lazuli blue, in favor of a more realistic representation.
With these studies Brunelleschi developed the method of unified linear perspective, which rationally organized figures in space. Subsequent historians and theorists agree in recognizing Brunelleschi as the paternity of this discovery, from Leon Battista Alberti to Filarete and Cristoforo Landino.
This technique was also adopted by other artists because it accorded with the new Renaissance worldview, which created finite and measurable spaces in which man was placed as the measure and center of all things. One of the first to apply this method in an artistic work was Donatello, in the relief of San Giorgio libera la principessa (1416-1417) for the tabernacle of the Arte dei Corazzai e Spadai in Orsanmichele.
The competition for the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore (1418)
As early as the first decade of the fifteenth century Brunelleschi received commissions from the Republic of Florence for the construction or renovation of fortifications, such as those of Staggia (1431) or Vicopisano, which are the best preserved of his military architecture. Shortly afterwards he began to study the problem of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, which was the exemplary work of his life, where there are also intuitions that were later made explicit in future works.
Brunelleschi had already been asked several times about the construction of the Duomo: in 1404 with a commission for a buttress, in 1410 for a supply of bricks, in 1417 for unspecified “labors lasting around the dome”. Between 1410 and 1413 the octagonal drum was built, thirteen meters high from the ceiling of the nave, no less than 42 meters wide and with walls four meters thick, which had further complicated the original project of Arnolfo di Cambio. Such a large dome had never been built since the Pantheon and traditional techniques, with scaffolding and wooden reinforcements, seemed impractical for the height and vastness of the hole to be covered. No variety of wood could have supported even temporarily the weight of such a large cover until the dome was closed by the lantern.
On August 19, 1418, a public competition was announced to address the problem of the roof, offering 200 gold florins to those who provided satisfactory models and drawings for the ribs, reinforcements, bridges, tools for lifting the material and so on. In addition to the technical and engineering problems, the dome also had to harmoniously conclude the building, emphasizing its symbolic value and imposing itself on the urban space and surroundings. Of the seventeen participants, Filippo Brunelleschi, author of a special wooden model, and Lorenzo Ghiberti were admitted to a second selection. Filippo then perfected his wooden model (“as big as an oven”), making variations, adjustments and additional models, to demonstrate the feasibility of a dome without reinforcement. At the end of 1419, with the help of Nanni di Banco and Donatello, Brunelleschi staged a demonstration in Piazza del Duomo, making a model of a dome in brick and limestone without reinforcement, in the space between the Duomo and Campanile. The demonstration positively impressed the Operai del Duomo and was paid 45 gold florins, on December 29, 1419.
On March 27, 1420 a final consultation was solicited, which finally assigned the work (on April 26) to Brunelleschi and Ghiberti, who were appointed Provveditori of the dome, alongside the master builder of the factory Battista d”Antonio. The salary was modest: only three florins each. The “deputy” substitute of Brunelleschi was Giuliano d”Arrigo, called the Pesello, while Ghiberti appointed Giovanni di Gherardo da Prato. The decisive consultation was celebrated with a breakfast based on wine, pods (fave in Tuscan), bread and melarance.
The Spedale degli Innocenti (since 1419)
In 1419 he began work on a commission from the Arte della Seta at the Spedale degli Innocenti, the first building constructed according to classical canons. It was an orphanage and Brunelleschi designed a complex that followed the tradition of other hospitals, such as that of San Matteo (late fourteenth century). The scheme provided for an external portico on the facade, which gives access to a square courtyard where two buildings of equal size with a rectangular base face each other, respectively the church and the abituro, i.e. the dormitory; in the basement there are the halls for the workshop and the school. Construction began on 19 August 1419, and payments document Brunelleschi”s presence at the site until 1427, after which he was probably succeeded by Francesco della Luna. Additions and modifications to Brunelleschi”s original project are nowadays of controversial identification, but they certainly existed and were relevant, as witnessed by Antonio Manetti, who reports various criticisms of the master to the prosecutors of the works. The external portico was certainly the work of Brunelleschi; it acts as a hinge between the Spedale and the square and is composed of nine bays with ribbed vaults and round arches resting on columns in pietra serena with Corinthian capitals with pulvinos.
A series of choices to contain costs was the basis of one of the most successful architectural achievements of the Renaissance, which had an extraordinary influence on subsequent architecture, being reinterpreted in countless ways. First of all, low-cost materials were chosen, such as pietra serena for the architectural members, which until then had been little used because of its fragility to atmospheric agents, and white plaster, which created that balanced two-tone of gray and white that became a characteristic feature of Florentine and Renaissance architecture in general.
In addition, again to save money, was chosen the workforce little experienced, which made it necessary to simplify the techniques of measurement and construction. The module (10 Florentine fathoms, about 5.84 meters) defined the height from the base of the column to the pulvinus, the width of the portico, the diameter of the arches and the height of the upper floor measured beyond the cornice; half a module was also the radius of the vaults and the height of the windows; twice the module was the height from the floor of the portico to the window sill. The result, perhaps unexpected for Brunelleschi himself, was that of an extremely clear architecture, where one can spontaneously grasp the simple but effective rhythm of the architectural members, like an ideal succession, under the portico, of cubes surmounted by hemispheres inscribed in the cube itself.
The module calculated in the traditional way (distance between the axes of the columns) gives the measure of eleven fathoms, which was used in turn as a module in the central body of the Spedale and in other architecture of Brunelleschi as San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito.
Brunelleschi did not limit himself to designing the facade of the building but studied its social function, connecting the square on which it stands (Piazza della Santissima Annunziata) and the center of the city (the cathedral) through the current Via dei Servi.
The construction of the dome (from 1420)
Work on the dome finally began on August 7, 1420, and the Opera del Duomo explicitly ordered that the model to be followed be the one put up by Filippo in Piazza Duomo, which remained visible to all the citizens until 1431. The story of the construction of the dome, reconstructed with remarkable precision thanks to the biography of Manetti, expanded by Vasari, to the archival documentation published in the 19th century and to the results of the direct observation of the structure during the restoration work begun in 1978, takes on the pressing tone of an unrepeatable human adventure, like a sort of modern myth whose sole protagonist is Brunelleschi himself, with his genius, his tenacity, his faith in reason. Brunelleschi had to overcome the perplexities, the criticisms and the uncertainties of the Workers of the Cathedral and he lavished himself with explanations, models and reports on his project, which foresaw the construction of a dome with a double dome with walkways in the cavity and without reinforcement, but with self-supporting scaffolding. In order to break the deadlock he even went so far as to give a practical demonstration of a dome built without reinforcement in the Schiatta Ridolfi chapel in the church of San Jacopo sopr”Arno, now destroyed. The workers were eventually convinced, but entrusted the task to Brunelleschi only up to a height of 14 fathoms, prudently reserving the confirmation to a later time, if the work had corresponded to what was promised.
Having Ghiberti around was another obstacle to overcome: Brunelleschi then tried to remove him by demonstrating his inadequacy; pretending to be ill, he left his colleague alone to supervise the construction, until he was promptly recalled, recognizing the inability of his colleague. At that point Filippo was able to demand a clear division of tasks: to him the creation of the scaffolding, to Ghiberti that of the chains; and again the technical errors of Ghiberti made that Filippo was declared chief governor of the entire factory. In 1426 the assignments were confirmed both to Brunelleschi and Ghiberti, who followed the building site only marginally until 1433. As proof of this, there is documentation on the different salaries of the two, which ranged from one hundred florins a year for Brunelleschi to only three for Ghiberti, unchanged from the initial contract, for a part-time collaboration.
In the Instruction of 1420 and in the Report are contained information on the masonry technique of the dome: in stone up to the first seven meters, then in bricks, composed with the technique called “spinapesce”, which involved the insertion at regular intervals of a brick for long, walled between bricks placed horizontally. In this way the protruding sections of the bricks “standing” acted as a support for the next ring. This technique, which proceeded as a spiral, had already been used in previous oriental buildings, but was unheard of in the Florentine area.
Brunelleschi used a pointed arch shape for the dome, “more magnificent and swelling”, obliged by practical and aesthetic needs: in fact the dimensions did not allow to use a hemispherical shape. He also chose the double dome, that is, two domes, one internal and one external, each divided vertically by eight sails. The greater development in height of the sixth acute compensated for the exceptional horizontal development of the nave, unifying in the dome all the spaces. An analogous effect is perceived from the inside, where the gigantic space of the dome centralizes the spaces of the radial chapels leading the look towards the ideal vanishing point in the eye of the lantern.
Brunelleschi had the external dome resting on twenty-four supports placed above the segments of the internal one and crossed with a system of horizontal spurs that resembled a grid of meridians and parallels. The outer dome, bricked with red terracotta interspersed with eight white ribs, also protected the building from humidity and made the dome seem larger than it is. The inner dome, smaller and stronger, supports the weight of the outer one and, through the intermediate supports, allows it to develop more in height. Finally, in the cavity is the system of stairs that allows you to climb to the top. The dome – especially after the conclusion with the lantern, which with its weight further consolidated ribs and sails – is therefore an organic structure, where the individual elements give each other strength, reconverting even the potentially negative weights in forces that increase cohesion, then positive. The members are devoid of decorative frills and, unlike Gothic architecture, the complex static game that supports the building is hidden in the cavity, rather than shown openly.
To build the double dome, Brunelleschi devised an aerial scaffolding that rose gradually, starting from a wooden platform mounted at the height of the drum and attached to the sails by rings inserted in the masonry. At the beginning of the work, where the wall of the dome was almost vertical, the scaffolding was supported by beams embedded in the wall, while for the last section, in which the dome curved until it converged towards the center, Brunelleschi designed a scaffolding suspended in the void at the center of the dome, perhaps supported by long beams on platforms located at lower levels, where the stores of materials and instruments were located.
Brunelleschi also improved the technologies for raising the heavy blocks of brick, applying to the winches and pulleys of the Gothic period a system of multipliers derived from those used in the manufacture of watches, able to increase the effectiveness of their force. A pair of horses tied to a vertical shaft gave rise to an upward circular movement, which was then imparted to a horizontal shaft from which the ropes supporting the pulleys with the loads were wound and unwound. These machines, which carried out specific functions for the lifting and positioning of materials on the dome under construction, probably remained in the vicinity of the site for some time, and were reproduced by Bonaccorso Ghiberti, Mariano di Jacopo (Taccola), Francesco di Giorgio, Giuliano da Sangallo and Leonardo da Vinci. In order to improve the working conditions, Brunelleschi had also prepared a system of illumination of the stairs and of the passages that run, at various levels, between the internal and external envelope of the dome and with iron support points.
There were foreseen some points of support for the scaffolds necessary for an eventual pictorial or mosaic decoration of the dome, while for the outside it was projected both a system of drainage of the rain waters, and a system of “holes and different openings, so that the winds would break, and the vapors, together with the tremors, could not do harm”, always according to what Vasari writes.
Each sail was entrusted to a different team of masons led by a foreman, so as to proceed uniformly on each side. When the construction reached a high point, Brunelleschi also set up a refreshment area on the scaffolding, where the workers could take their lunch break without wasting time going up and down.
Brunelleschi also had to deal with insubordination, such as the strike of Florentine bricklayers who demanded better working conditions, to which he responded by hiring workers from Lombardy, more submissive and accustomed to working in the large construction sites of the cathedrals of the north, leaving the Florentines high and dry, until he rehired them, but at a reduced salary. Brunelleschi was constantly at the site and was involved in everything from the design of winches, pulleys and machinery, to the choice of materials in the quarries, from the control of the bricks to the furnaces, to the design of boats for transport, such as the one patented in 1438 with a propeller propulsion by air and water, which, however, disastrously lost part of its load while going up the Arno near Empoli.
His proverbial disinterest in help from others also led him in 1434 to refuse to reenroll in the Art of Masters of Stone and Timber, which cost him jail time until he was freed through the intercession of the Opera del Duomo.For the construction of the two domes, the inner and outer, 4 million bricks of 55 different shapes and sizes were used and it is the largest brick dome in the world.
There is no direct evidence of Brunelleschi”s designs for the machinery, but there are numerous copies based on drawings by Mariano di Jacopo known as Taccola, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Bonaccorso Ghiberti and Leonardo da Vinci.
Barbadori Chapel (1420)
In 1420 Brunelleschi built the Barbadori chapel, later Capponi, in the church of Santa Felicita in Florence. With the destruction of the Ridolfi chapel in San Jacopo sopr”Arno, this chapel is the oldest work of its kind built by Brunelleschi that has come down to us, despite the heavy reworking that followed. It is also one of the first stages in the great architect”s reflections on the theme of centrally planned buildings.
The hemispherical dome, later destroyed and rebuilt, rested on a cubic space, connecting with four spandrels between the round arches of the walls; in each of them there was a blind oculus, where today there are the four round paintings of the Evangelists by Pontormo and Bronzino. Innovative was the use of double Ionic half-columns at the corners, instead of the traditional Gothic pillars; these, on the external sides, rest on Corinthian corner pillars. The scheme, which reproposes, in isolation, the model of the span of the portico of the Spedale degli Innocenti, was then reproposed with a few variations in the Old Sacristy and the Pazzi Chapel.
Palagio di Parte Guelfa (1420)
Also in 1420 Filippo performed some interventions in the palagio di Parte Guelfa. This is one of the few cases of civil architecture where Brunelleschi worked since it is documented. The intervention, unfinished and much altered over the centuries, was part of a redevelopment of the palace. Brunelleschi designed a new meeting room on the second floor with some adjoining rooms for offices, above a fourteenth-century vaulted structure on the ground floor. Here too Brunelleschi drew inspiration from buildings in the Florentine medieval architectural tradition, such as Orsanmichele, but reworked them to arrive at novel solutions. The outer wall, in pietraforte, is polished and marked by round arches surmounted by large blind oculi, perhaps in the original plans open to the hall. The frames around these elements are graduated in perspective, designed for a “d”infilata” view, that is, inclined because of the narrow street. The construction was interrupted because of the war against Lucca and Milan (1426-1431) and resumed only much later by Francesco della Luna and then by Giorgio Vasari.
Another work in a civic palace attributed to Brunelleschi is the courtyard of Palazzo Busini-Bardi, the earliest example of a Florentine palace with such a four-sided porticoed opening in the center, taken from the architecture of Roman domus.
Old Sacristy (1421-1428)
Giovanni di Bicci de” Medici commissioned the construction of what was later called the Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo in 1420, as well as an adjacent family chapel in the left transept of the basilica.
Brunelleschi worked on it between 1421 and 1428 and it is the only architectural work that the great architect completed in its entirety. The sacristy, conceived as an independent room, although it communicates with the church, is composed of a main room with a square plan, with a scarsella also with a square base on the south side, whose side measures 1
The main hall has the module of the base side equal to 20 Florentine fathoms. The roof is an umbrella dome, that is, divided into ribbed segments, at the base of each of which is an oculus that, together with the lantern, provides interior lighting. The scarsella is composed in the same way, with its own small dome, which however is hemispherical and blind, with fresco decoration, while its sides are enlarged by niches. The walls are marked by large round arches, which in the areas below the dome form four sails at the corners, where the medallions by Donatello and the Medici coats of arms were later inserted. At the height of the line of the arches there is an entablature in pietra serena with the central part polychrome and decorated with roundels with cherubs; it runs without interruption along the entire perimeter, including the scarsella. At the corners there are fluted pilasters of Corinthian order.
Also in this work Brunelleschi was inspired by elements of medieval Tuscan architecture, regularizing and reworking them with solutions taken from classical Roman art with a result of great originality. For example, the ribbed vault was already present in Gothic architecture, but the use of the round arch is innovative. Also the mixture between straight lines and circles is typical of Tuscan Romanesque, as for example in the marble inlays of the facade of San Miniato al Monte. Compared to medieval architecture, however, Brunelleschi used a more rational and rigorous method, studying the module of the circle inscribed in the square, which is repeated in the plan and in the elevation.
San Lorenzo (since about 1421)
It is not documented when exactly Brunelleschi began working in San Lorenzo. An enlargement of the Romanesque church was started in 1418, when the prior Matteo Dolfini obtained from the Signoria the permission to pull down some houses to enlarge the transept of the church and on August 10, 1421 he celebrated a solemn ceremony to bless the beginning of the works. Among the financiers was Giovanni di Bicci de” Medici himself, who probably proposed the name of the architect who was already working on his chapel. The reconstruction of the whole church was a project that had to mature later, probably after 1421, when Dolfini died. The beginning of Brunelleschi”s intervention is generally placed in that year.
The layout of the church, as in other works by Brunelleschi, is inspired by other buildings of the medieval Florentine tradition, such as Santa Croce, Santa Maria Novella or Santa Trinita, but from these models Brunelleschi created something more rigorous, with revolutionary results. The fundamental innovation lies in the organization of the spaces along the median axis by applying a module (both in plan and in elevation), corresponding to the size of a square bay, with the base of 11 Florentine arms, the same as the Spedale degli Innocenti. The use of the regular module, with the consequent rhythmic repetition of the architectural members, defines a perspective scansion of great clarity and suggestion, especially in the two side aisles, which resemble a double symmetrical loggia of the Spedale, applied for the first time inside a church: also here, in fact, the use of the square span and of the ribbed vault generates the sensation of a space marked as a regular series of imaginary cubes surmounted by hemispheres. The side walls are decorated with pilasters that frame the round arches of the chapels. The latter, however, are not proportionate to the module and are thought to be a tampering with Brunelleschi”s original project, probably put in place after his death (1446). In addition, the rationality of the system in the piedroces does not find a correspondence of analogous lucidity in the transept, since here Brunelleschi probably had to adapt to the foundations already started by Dolfini.
Despite the alterations, the basilica still conveys a sense of rational conception of space, emphasized by the load-bearing members in pietra serena, which stand out against the white plaster in the most recognizable Brunelleschi style. The interior is extremely bright, thanks to the series of arched windows that run along the clerestory. The columns have Corinthian capitals with pulvinos, as in the Spedale degli Innocenti, while the ceiling of the nave is flat, decorated with lacunars.
The Trinity and the fortifications (1424-1425)
The presumed collaboration of Brunelleschi with Masaccio in the perspective construction of the famous fresco of the Trinity in Santa Maria Novella is dated 1424. The perfect spatial organization, which made Vasari write “it seems that that wall is pierced”, was the manifesto of the perspective culture formulated in Florence in those years and is so accurate that some have tried to reproduce it both in plan and in elevation. There are no documents or mentions of the collaboration, but the rigorousness of the scheme has suggested that the great architect had at least offered advice during the design, running between the two good relationships, as evidenced by the Book of Antonio Billi and some mentions of Vasari.
Also in 1424 Brunelleschi began surveys in Pisa as a consultant on the fortifications, followed by those on the walls of Lastra a Signa, Signa and Malmantile. In 1425 he was appointed prior of the district of San Giovanni in Florence. In the land register of 1427 he declared that he owned a house in the quarter and a deposit in the Monte of Florence of 1,415 florins and 420 on that of Pisa. The same year he was consulted for the dome of the Baptistery of Volterra.
Pazzi Chapel (since 1429)
In 1429 the Franciscans of Santa Croce entrusted Brunelleschi with the reconstruction of the chapter house on the cloister, which then became the Cappella de” Pazzi, financed by Andrea de” Pazzi.
The first stone was laid in about 1433 and the work continued slowly until the death of the architect, being finished after 1470 by Giuliano da Maiano and others. With such a long time span for the completion of the works, it has always been a problem to define with precision what belongs to Brunelleschi”s paternity and what has been the result of the work of his continuators; a part of the critics nowadays tends to recognize to the great architect at least the project in all its essential lines, both of the internal and external structure, including, but with more reservations, the portico, which would represent the only Brunelleschi”s façade.
The general scheme, as in the other works of Brunelleschi, is inspired by a medieval precedent, in this case the chapter house of Santa Maria Novella (the Cappellone degli Spagnoli), with a main room with a rectangular plan and scarsella.
The interior is very essential and is based, as in the Old Sacristy, on the module of 20 Florentine arms (about 11.66 meters), which is the measure of the width of the central area, the height of the interior walls and the diameter of the dome, so as to have an imaginary cube surmounted by a hemisphere. To this structure must be added the two side arms (covered by a barrel vault), one fifth each of the side of the central cube, and the scarsella of the altar (with dome), another fifth wide, equal to the entrance arch. The main difference with the plan of the Old Sacristy is therefore the rectangular base, which was perhaps influenced by the layout of the pre-existing surrounding buildings.
A bench in pietra serena runs along the perimeter and was built to allow the use of the chapel as a meeting place for the friars. The Corinthian pilasters, also in pietra serena, branch off from the bench; they mark out the environment and are connected to the upper members; thanks to the expedient of the bench that acts as a plinth, they are at the same height as those of the scarsella, raised by a few steps. The arched opening above the altar room is also reproduced on the other walls, as is the profile of the round window on the access wall, creating a pure geometric rhythm. The umbrella dome is marked by the thin relief ribs and light floods the chapel from the lantern and the small windows arranged on the drum. The homogeneous and deep gray of the stone stands out against the white plaster background, in the most typical style of the great Florentine architect.
The plastic decoration is strictly subordinate to the architecture, as in the Old Sacristy: the walls host twelve large glazed terracotta medallions with the Apostles, among Luca della Robbia”s best creations; higher up is the frieze, again with the theme of the Cherubim and the Lamb. In the sails of the dome, another 4 polychrome tondos, also in terracotta, representing the Evangelists, are attributed to Andrea della Robbia or to Brunelleschi himself, who would have taken care of the design before entrusting the realization to the Della Robbia”s workshop: in these works, in the choice of the artificer, it is possible to understand Brunelleschi”s polemic against the too expressive decorations of Donatello in the Old Sacristy, with whom he interrupted the until then profitable collaboration.
According to Brunelleschi, it was preferable not to put altarpieces (painted or sculpted altars) on the altars, preferring to use only the stained-glass windows on the walls. The two stained-glass windows of the scarsella in fact complete the iconographic cycle of the medallions and were made to a design by Alesso Baldovinetti: they depict Saint Andrew (the rectangular one) and the Eternal Father (in the oculus), which is in direct correspondence with the medallion of Saint Andrew on the entrance door in the portico.
The war against Lucca (1430-1431)
In 1430 Brunelleschi, Donatello, Michelozzo and Ghiberti were engaged in the defensive works of the Florentine camp during the war against Lucca. Brunelleschi arrived on the battlefield on March 5, when the Florentines were beginning their siege of the city. Filippo studied a way to divert the Serchio and flood the city, and from April to June he worked on a complex system of locks on the north side, coordinated by a system of embankments on the other sides. The enterprise, however, proved to be a failure and the water invaded the Florentine field, defeating the siege.
To the reentry he devoted himself to the prosecution of the jobs of the dome. In 1431 it was charged to predispose the altar of San Zanobi and to create a crypt, never realized, in the Cathedral of Florence.
Travel and Return (1432-1434)
In 1430 he was consulted for the tiburium of the cathedral of Milan. In 1432 he made a trip to Ferrara as a guest of Niccolò III d”Este and later moved to Mantua by Giovan Francesco Gonzaga, where he was consulted for hydraulic issues related to the course of the Po. Of the works carried out in the two cities remain traces null or very scarce. He also visited Rimini for various consultations to Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta, who was renovating Castel Sismondo.
Back in Florence, he was commissioned to sculpt a washbasin for the Sacristy of the Masses in the Duomo, which was then executed by Buggiano, his adopted son since 1419. The near shipwreck of his “badalone”, the boat with propellers he had patented for the transport of materials in the Arno, led to the revocation of the boat”s navigation permit.
In 1433 Brunelleschi met Mariano di Jacopo, known as Taccola, an inventor of devices and machinery who was fascinated by the cranes and winches designed for the building site of the dome, so much so that he included an “interview” with Brunelleschi himself in his treatise De ingeniis. The same year the architect went to Rome for a further study of classical antiquity: in particular, his interests were directed towards the study of buildings with a central plan.
In 1434 he was imprisoned for non-payment of the registration fee to the art of the Masters of Stone and Timber, but was released thanks to the intervention of the Opera del Duomo. His adopted son, Buggiano, had in the meantime fled to Naples with his money and jewels, but thanks to the intervention of Pope Eugenio IV he was returned to Florence.
The Rotunda of the Angels (since 1434)
Once free, in 1434 Brunelleschi stipulated the contract for the construction of the rotunda of Santa Maria degli Angeli on commission of the Art of Calimala, where he worked until 1436 leaving the work unfinished. It is the only building with a central plan designed by Brunelleschi without having to deal with continuous structures.
The project was based on classical models with a central plan and provided for an octagonal plan inside, surrounded by a crown of chapels communicating with each other. The altar was probably in the center, covered by a dome. Each chapel, square in shape with two niches at the sides that make it seem elliptical, had a flat wall to the outside, while in the spaces of the pillars were cut external niches perhaps intended to be decorated with statues. The internal niches must have been in communication with each other, so as to generate a circular space.
Work was stopped after three years because of the war against Lucca (1437) and was not continued beyond about seven meters in height. The rest of the building, left incomplete and commonly called with the sinister name of “Castellaccio”, was only realized between 1934 and 1940.
Vicopisano and Pisa (1435)
In 1435 the Opera del Duomo sent him to Vicopisano, to supervise the construction of the fortress he designed.
The same year he designed the door of Parlascio in Pisa and, back in Florence, he dedicated himself to the rotunda of Santa Maria degli Angeli.
The inauguration of the Dome (1436)
On March 25, 1436, the starting day of the Florentine calendar, Brunelleschi was finally able to attend the solemn inauguration of the cathedral, in the presence of Pope Eugene IV. Brunelleschi arranged the interior of the church, knocking down the temporary wall between the naves and the apsidal body, where the building site had been located, removing machinery and materials and having a temporary wooden choir built around the high altar, with twelve statues of Apostles.
The dome was not actually completed until August, when on the 31st the Bishop of Fiesole, Benozzo Federighi, by proxy of Archbishop Giovanni Maria Vitelleschi, climbed to the top of the vault and laid the last stone, blessing the grandiose architectural work. A banquet followed while all the bells of the city”s churches rang out in celebration.
The dome became not only a religious symbol, but also a symbol of the city, since it redefined and re-proportioned the building below, originally Gothic, and the city of Florence redesigned and subdued the territory around it. From an ideological point of view, it has often been said that the shadow of the dome looms over all the peoples of Tuscany.
The lantern (since 1436)
It remained to build the lantern, for which Brunelleschi had already provided a project in 1432. In the meantime, the dome had been closed by a ring structure, placed at the point where the two caps touched, so as to lock them together and also create eight rooms on the top.
However, in 1436, after the inauguration of the dome, instead of giving the immediate go-ahead to Brunelleschi”s project for the lantern, it was decided to hold a new competition, during which Brunelleschi again had to challenge himself, competing with, among others, his collaborator Antonio Manetti and his long-time rival Ghiberti. On December 31, 1436 the judging commission, in which Cosimo de” Medici also participated, approved Filippo”s model, built in wood by Manetti himself.
As usual, Brunelleschi organized the construction site in great detail, creating a revolving crane and a wooden castle as scaffolding. The actual construction did not begin until 1446, and a month later Brunelleschi died, when only the base had been built. The work was completed by Andrea del Verrocchio in 1461, who also created the golden ball with cross on top (the original sphere collapsed in 1601 and was later reinstated).
The lantern is an eight-sided prism with buttresses at the corners and tall windows along the sides, covered with an inverted and fluted cone. In each of the corners there is a staircase “a cerbotana vota” (Vasari, 1550), i.e. in the shape of a well where metal rods run like ladders. The lantern was linked to the meditations on the theme of central plan buildings developed in the rotunda of Santa Maria degli Angeli. It is the visual fulcrum of the entire cathedral and formally concludes the ascending lines that run along the ribs. It also has the static task of closing off the spurs and the eight surrounding sails. In designing it Brunelleschi was perhaps inspired by sacred ornaments, such as censers or monstrances, enlarging them on a monumental scale. Today”s lantern may have been altered during the construction phase with respect to the original project, due to the presence of elegant and refined ornaments, more in keeping with the style of the middle of the century, dominated by the figure of Leon Battista Alberti.
The dead stands (since 1438)
In 1445, while Brunelleschi was working on the lantern, he also began an important addition to the apse area of the Duomo, namely the “dead tribunes” (i.e. “blind”, without openings), designed since 1438.
They are small temples with a semicircular base leaning against the external walls of the drum, in the empty spaces between the tribunes of the apses. Their surface is articulated by five marble niches alternating with pairs of Corinthian semi-columns, so as to accentuate the volumes with the chiaroscuro of empty and full spaces.
The functions of the tribunes are essentially that of further dilating the radial space of the apses by creating a sort of crown, harmonizing the surfaces by mediating with the drum that emerges, and anticipating the mass of the dome. They were also built for static reasons, such as pushing bodies at the base of the dome: in fact, if we dissect these structures we obtain rampant arches, similar to the buttresses of Gothic churches.
The project for Palazzo Medici
In 1439 Brunelleschi set up the famous living representation of the Annunciation, during the Council of Florence.
Giorgio Vasari reports in his Lives an episode of Brunelleschi”s life that has not been documented and is the subject of controversial evaluations by art historians. It does not appear even in the biography of Manetti, which is unfinished about the last years of the artist”s life. In 1443 Cosimo il Vecchio bought some buildings and land in Via Larga to make his palace, which was built a few years later by Michelozzo. However, Vasari reports that the founder of the Medici turned first of all to Filippo Brunelleschi in 1442, who brought him a model for his palace, which was, however, rejected because it was too “sumptuous and magnificent”, such as to arouse dangerous envy. According to Filippo”s project, the main access should have been on Piazza San Lorenzo (where the garden walls are today).
The project was then chosen by Cosimo”s rival, the banker Luca Pitti, who put it into effect only in 1458, well after Filippo”s death, constituting the primitive nucleus of the present Palazzo Pitti; according to Vasari”s testimony, the Pitti expressly requested that the windows of his palace be as large as the doors of Palazzo Medici and that the courtyard could contain the whole of Palazzo Strozzi, the largest private building in the city: in fact these conditions are met, although the windows were originally open to form a loggia and although Palazzo Pitti has only three sides instead of four, arranged around the huge courtyard (redone in the sixteenth century). The original nucleus of the palace corresponds to the six central windows and the portal, with the facade composed according to a fixed module, which recurs in the width of the openings and in their distance; multiplied by two gives the height of the openings and by four the height of the floors.
Also new was the presence of a square in front of the palace, the first destined to a private palace in Florence, which allowed a frontal view and centered from below, according to the privileged point of view also defined by Leon Battista Alberti.
The pulpit of Santa Maria Novella (1443)
In 1443 he designed and prepared a wooden model for the pulpit of Santa Maria Novella, later made by Buggiano. The same year is engraved on the northern wall of the Pazzi Chapel, the probable conclusion of the work, while a year earlier is the date to which the astronomical maps in the Old Sacristy and in the Pazzi Chapel itself refer (July 4, 1442), probably linked to the memory of the coming of Renato d”Angiò to the city.
Holy Spirit (since 1444)
The renovation of the basilica of Santo Spirito, planned from 1428 and put under contract in 1434, was only carried out from 1444 onwards. In 1446 the first column shaft arrived in Santo Spirito.
In spite of the modifications to the original project made by the continuators, the church represents the masterpiece of Brunelleschi”s last meditations on the module and on the combination of Latin cross and central plan, with an articulation of the spaces much richer and more complex than San Lorenzo. It is a new interpretation of classicism not only in its methods but also in its grandeur and monumentality. A continuous colonnade of square bays with a ribbed vault surrounds the entire church, including the transept and the head of the cross, creating a walkway (as in the Duomo of Pisa or Siena) where forty niche chapels open. The profiles of the niches were to be in the projects visible from the outside, as in the Cathedral of Orvieto, creating a revolutionary effect of strong chiaroscuro and movement of the wall masses, which was replaced in the construction phase with a more traditional straight wall.
At the intersection of the arms is the dome, originally conceived by Brunelleschi without a tambour, as in the Old Sacristy, so as to illuminate the central altar table with greater intensity, making the allusion to the divine light of the Holy Spirit, to whom the church is dedicated, more explicit. Also the covering of the nave should have been barrel-vaulted instead of with a flat ceiling, so as to accentuate the effect of expansion of the interior space towards the exterior, as if the church were “swelling”. The bays were to continue also on the counter-façade, with the original creation of four portals, compared to only three naves.
Despite these tamperings, in Santo Spirito the detachment from the Gothic tradition deepens and becomes definitive. The module of the span of eleven Florentine arms comes to define every part of the church. Entering the church and walking towards the head of the cross, one can grasp the extreme dynamism of the continuous variation of the point of view through the rhythmic sequence of arches and columns, which create rows of perspective also transversally, towards the niches and portals. All this, however, unlike Gothic churches, gives the effect of extreme harmony and clarity of the whole, thanks to the regulation according to rational principles unitary.
The light highlights the airy and elegant rhythm of the spaces, entering gradually through the different openings, wider in the clerestory of the nave and from the oculi of the dome. The lateral naves are thus darker, inevitably directing the eye towards the luminous node: the central altar.
The last years and death (1445-1446)
In 1445 the Spedale degli Innocenti was inaugurated, although not yet completed, the first architecture started by Brunelleschi. In the same year the construction of the dead Tribunes of the Cathedral, designed since 1438, began, and in February
Brunelleschi died in Florence on the night between April 15 and 16, 1446, leaving as heir, of a house and 3,430 florins, his adopted son Buggiano.
His tomb was initially placed in a loculus in Giotto”s bell tower and solemnly transferred to the cathedral on September 30 of the same year. Lost its location over the centuries, it was rediscovered only in 1972, during the excavations of the church of Santa Reparata under the cathedral.
According to Antonio Manetti: “He was so honored to be buried in Santa Maria del Fiore, and placed there the effigy of his natural, according to what is said, marble sculpture in perpetual memory, with a so much epitaph”:
The epitaph is located in the left aisle, below the bust of Buggiano, which is part of the series of illustrious artists who have contributed, over the centuries, to the splendor of the cathedral: the others are Arnolfo di Cambio, Giotto, Antonio Squarcialupi, Marsilio Ficino and Emilio de Fabris.
According to Giorgio Vasari Brunelleschi was the inventor of the scenic machinery for the annual commemoration of the Annunciation which was held in San Felice in Piazza and, according to more recent attributions, he was responsible, directly or through collaborators of his circle such as Cecca, for the scenic “ingegni” for the Ascension, re-enacted every year in Santa Maria del Carmine, and for the famous living Annunciation staged in 1439, perhaps in Santissima Annunziata or in San Marco, on the occasion of the Council of Florence. An eyewitness of these last two representations was the orthodox prelate Abraham of Souzdal who, arrived in the wake of the metropolitan of Kiev, left a detailed description in ancient Slavic.
The Annunciation of 1439, for example, involved the passage of an angel along the entire nave of the church, suspended above the spectators. He ran on a canopy that went from the “tribune of the Empyrean”, above the portal of the church where the representation of the Eternal Father was located, to the top of the partition, where Mary was in a cell. After having made the announcement, she would return to the Empireo, exchanging herself with a firework that came from the opposite direction and represented the Holy Spirit. The scenographic effect of these representations still survives today in the Easter celebration of the bursting of the cart where the colombina, suspended on cables, quickly crosses the Duomo of Florence, from the cart placed on the church square to the high altar and vice versa.
The “ingenuity” of San Felice in Piazza, on the other hand, provided for a round opening that suddenly opened with a thunderous sound showing a large raised niche above the altar, illuminated by flames like a starry sky, where the Eternal Father and twelve singing angels stood. Below it hung a structure in the shape of a rotating dome, the “bunch”, with eight angels attached, impersonated by children who sang the praises of Mary, from the center of which lowered a mandorla, illuminated at the edges with small oil lamps, with a young man impersonating the Archangel Gabriel, who came to the ground and visited Mary, seated inside a kind of small temple. The rotating group of angels in “flight”, probably repeated in later years, must have been the inspiration for the composition of Sandro Botticelli”s Mystical Nativity (1501).
Brunelleschi”s preparations inaugurated a new way of making sacred re-enactments spectacular, using both a fixed scenography and self-propelled apparatuses, capable of recreating the illusion of the flight of angels. In doing this, Brunelleschi made use of his great experience in the design of machinery, winches, devices for lifting, suspension and traction of materials, used in his construction sites. Everything was made more spectacular by the use of pyrotechnics, sudden lighting, curtains. The wooden reconstruction in scale of these apparatuses was made at the exhibition The theatrical place in Florence in 1975 curated by the historian of the show Ludovico Zorzi.
We know Filippo Brunelleschi”s appearance from various portraits. We have also received the funerary mask in white stucco which, taken immediately after his death, is now preserved in the Museo dell”Opera del Duomo. Buggiano was inspired by it to sculpt the “clipeato” bust that is still today on the wall of the left aisle of the Duomo of Florence. The master is portrayed without the typical tools of the architect”s trade (compasses, drawings of projects), to emphasize his intellectual superiority with respect to the practice of craftsmanship, as also indicated by the epitaph below in Latin, dictated by Carlo Marsuppini.
An effigy of him at a younger age should be found in Saint Peter in the Chair, a fresco by Masaccio in the Brancacci Chapel in Florence, alongside other artists of the time including Masaccio himself, Leon Battista Alberti and, perhaps, Masolino. Also according to tradition, Filippo served as a model for Donatello for the statue of the beardless Prophet, destined for the bell tower of Santa Maria del Fiore (1416-1418). Filippo”s profile also appears in the painting by an anonymous Florentine of about 1470, already attributed to Paolo Uccello, together with four other founders of the Florentine figurative arts: Giotto, Paolo Uccello himself, Donatello and Antonio Manetti. This image inspired the engraver who edited the portraits of the 1568 edition of the Vite de” più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettori.