- (1377-1446)Florentine artist, initially active as a sculptor but known principally as the creator of the early Italian Renaissance architectural style. According to a story told by two later Renaissance authors, after he was defeated by Lorenzo Ghiberti in 1401 in a competition for design of new bronze doors for the Florentine baptistery, he and his friend the sculptor Donatello travelled to Rome and studied the monuments of ancient Rome. This study enabled Brunelleschi to define the mathematical principles and proportions on which the ancient classical style was based. Whether this story is literally true or not, he seems to have been the first person to understand the mathematical principles of linear perspective.Back in Florence by 1417, Brunelleschi again competed against Ghiberti for the daunting task of designing the huge dome called for by the original architect of the cathedral but left unbuilt because no one could contrive a design for such a gigantic dome. This time Brunelleschi won the competition, largely because in addition to his familiarity with ancient Roman architecture, he had become a skilled mathematician and structural engineer. His dome won because of an ingenious design that not only called for a lighter, less stress-intensive structure but also would be much cheaper and faster to build. This success led the wealthy Medici family to choose him to design the sacristy (the family's burial chapel) of the church of San Lorenzo and then to rebuild the entire church. Though the new structure is reminiscent of the traditional Tuscan Romanesque style, it reflected classical architectural practice in its elegant and harmonious proportions. On a much smaller scale, strongly redolent of elements drawn from Roman architecture and yet representing a clearly modern design, was the Pazzi Chapel, commissioned by another wealthy Florentine family. Brunelleschi's subsequent works included the churches of Santo Spirito and Santa Maria degli Angeli. The latter was the earliest domed, central-plan church of the Renaissance. The engineering skills that Brunelleschi applied to designing the cathedral dome were also put to use in improving the design of the organ in the cathedral, designing a new type of river boat, designing an aqueduct, building stage machinery, and designing fortifications.
Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. Charles G. Nauert. 2004.
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