Alberti, Leon Battista

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Alberti, Leon Battista

Italian Renaissance architect and author who designed the marble facade of San Maria Novella (illus.), Florence, Italy, from 1456 to 1470, which contains Classical details in an otherwise Gothic church. From Vitruvius, via Alberti, came the concept that buildings should be in proportion to the human body and all their dimensions should be related. In 1452, Alberti wrote De re Aedificatoria, the first architectural treatise of the Renaissance.
Illustrated Dictionary of Architecture Copyright © 2012, 2002, 1998 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Alberti, Leon Battista


Born Feb. 18, 1404, inGenoa; died Apr. 25,1472, in Rome. Italian scholar, architect, writer, and musician. Alberti studied humanities in Padua and law in Bologna. Later he lived in Florence and Rome. A prominent figure in Renaissance culture, he defended the literary rights of the “native” (Italian) language. In a number of theoretical treatises (On a Statue, 1435, and On Painting, 1435–36, in Italian; On Architecture, published in 1485, in Latin), Alberti summarized the experience of the art of his time, enriched by scientific achievements. In Latin, he wrote the comedy The Lover of Fame (1426) and Momus (written between 1443 and 1450), a mythological and allegorical satire on princes and courtiers. Among his works in Italian, On Family (books 1–4, 1437–41) portrays the model family and advances the ideal of man in harmony.

In architecture, Alberti gravitated toward bold experimental judgments. In the Rucellai palace in Florence (1446–51, built by B. Rossellino according to Alberti’s plans), the facade was interspersed for the first time with three tiers of pilasters of various orders; the pilasters together with the rustic wall were perceived as the building’s constructive base. In reconstructing the facade of the Church of Santa Maria Novella (1456–70), Alberti used the incrustation style in the revetment and employed volutes for the first time to join the middle parts of the facade with the lower laterals. Alberti’s works, especially the church of San Francesco in Rimini (1447–68, remodeled from a Gothic church), and the churches of San Sebastiano (1460) and Sant’ Andrea (1472–94) in Mantua, all constructed according to his designs, were an important step in the assimilation of the heritage of antiquity by early Renaissance architecture.


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Stokes, A. Art and science: A study of Alberti, Piero della Francesea, and Giorgione. London, 1949.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.