Filippo Brunelleschi

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Brunelleschi, Filippo

(fēlēp`pō bro͞onĕl-lĕs`kē), 1377–1446, first great architect of the Italian Renaissance, a Florentine by birth. Trained as sculptor and goldsmith, he designed a trial panel, The Sacrifice of Isaac (1401; Bargello, Florence) for the bronze doors of the Florence baptistery. The commission, however, was won by Lorenzo GhibertiGhiberti, Lorenzo
, c.1378–1455, Florentine sculptor. He received his early training in the workshop of Bartoluccio. In 1401 he entered the competition for a bronze portal for the baptistery in Florence. He won the contest against his closest rival, Brunelleschi.
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. Thereafter, Brunelleschi became more interested in architectural planning. He made several trips to Rome, where he devoted himself to the study of classical buildings. About 1420 he drew two panels in perspective (now lost) that had important consequences for both architectural and art theory. The Church of San Lorenzo, Florence, reveals his systematic use of perspective in the careful proportioning of the interior structure and in the articulation of spatial volumes. In the Ospedale degli Innocenti (foundling hospital; 1419–45), Brunelleschi introduced a motif that was widely imitated during the Renaissance—a series of arches supported on columns. In 1420 he began to build the dome for the cathedral in Florence. This octagonal ribbed dome is one of the most celebrated and original domical constructions in architectural history. Brunelleschi's other works include the churches of Santa Maria degli Angeli and Santo Spirito and the Pazzi Chapel, all in Florence. His designs exhibit beauty of detail and elegance, as well as mastery of construction.


See studies by A. Mantonio (1970), F. D. Prager (1970), I. Hyman, ed. (1973), and R. King (2001); biography by A. Mannetti (tr. 1970).

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Brunelleschi, Filippo

Florence-born architect who designed the dome of the Florence Cathedral from 1420 to 1434; the Foundling Hospital, Florence (1421); and St. Lorenzo, Florence (1425).
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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Brunelleschi, Filippo


(also Brunellesco). Born 1377, in Florence; died there Apr. 15, 1446. Italian architect, sculptor, and scholar.

Brunelleschi was the son of a notary. He studied and worked in Florence, and from about 1402 to 1409 he studied classical architecture in Rome. Participating in a sculptors’ competition in 1401 (won by L. Ghiberti), Brunelleschi made the bronze relief The Sacrifice of Isaac (National Museum, Florence) for the doors of the Florence Baptistery. This relief, which is distinguished by its innovative realism, originality, and free composition, was one of the first masterpieces of Renaissance sculpture. About 1409, Brunelleschi made a wooden crucifix for the Church of Santa Maria Novella.

In his later work as architect, engineer, and mathematician, Brunelleschi was one of the founders of Renaissance architecture and the scientific theory of perspective. The massive eight-sided dome erected by Brunelleschi (1420-36) above the choir of Florence Cathedral was the first important monument of Renaissance architecture and an engineering feat. Its 42-meter diameter is considered large for its time. The dome was built without ground supports and consists of two portions joined by ribs and horizontal rings. Rising high above the city, the dome, with its grandeur and fluid, elastic contours, defined the characteristic silhouette of Florence. Brunelleschi built an arched gallery on the facade of the Foundling Hospital (Spedale degli Innocenti, 1421-44), joining the building with the square in front of it for an effect that was not only monumental but also graceful and intimate.

In the Old Sacristy of the Church of San Lorenzo (completed in 1428), Brunelleschi created for the first time the clear, harmonious, central-domed composition that is characteristic of Renaissance architecture. The structure of this building clearly shows the system of orders borrowed from classical architecture. Its rectangular space is covered with an umbrella-shaped dome supported by pendentives. A free sense of space and integrity and simple restraint of composition are expressed with particular clarity in the Pazzi Chapel (built in the courtyard of the Church of Santa Croce; begun 1429), with its elegant Corinthian portico and its two domes (over the portico and the chapel). The outstanding color of the pilasters, the entablature, and the arches all clearly show the harmonious relationship between supports and mass. Brunelleschi successfully used the classical orders in two basilicas, San Lorenzo (1422-46) and Santo Spirito (begun in 1444), where he divided the naves with an arcade supported by columns and broke up the surface of the walls with pilasters. The shapeliness of the columns and pilasters is increased by the carved entablature over the capitals. Some of Brunelleschi’s projects were never completed, such as the palace for the Guelph party (1420-42) and the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli (begun circa 1434), which was to have been circular, with an eight-sided interior and a 16-sided exterior. Attributed to Brunelleschi are the Pitti Palace (begun in 1440), a large building with facings of roughly hewn blocks, and the smaller Pazzi-Quaratesi Palace (completed in 1445). Brunelleschi also built a number of fortifications, particularly in Pisa.

The humanism and poetic qualities of his works, the human scale of his buildings, the life-affirming strength of his images, and his ability to combine monumentality with elegance and creative freedom with the scientifically accurate concepts of a master explain Brunelleschi’s considerable influence on the subsequent development of Renaissance architecture.


Filippo Brunelleski. Moscow, 1935.
Geymüller, G. Filippo di Ser Brunellesko. Moscow, 1936. (Translated from German.)
Brunelleschi, a cura di G. C. Argan. [Milan], 1955.
Sanpaolesi, P. Brunelleschi. Milan, 1963.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.