Showing posts with label Brunelleschi's Dome. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brunelleschi's Dome. Show all posts

1 December 2017

Lorenzo Ghiberti – sculptor

Goldsmith renowned for 'Gates of Paradise'

The baptistry doors known as 'The Gates of Paradise'
The baptistry doors known as
'The Gates of Paradise' 
Sculptor, goldsmith and architect Lorenzo Ghiberti died on this day in 1455 in Florence.

Part of his legacy were the magnificent doors he created for the Baptistery of the Florence Duomo that have become known as the Gates of Paradise.

Ghiberti had become a man of learning, living up to the image of the early 15th century artist as a student of antiquity, who was investigative, ambitious and highly creative.

His Commentaries - I Commentarii - which he started to write in 1447, include judgements on the great contemporary and 14th century masters as well as his scientific theories on optics and anatomy, revealing the scope of his artistic and practical experimentation.

Ghiberti was born in 1378 in Pelago near Florence and was trained as a goldsmith by Bartolo di Michele, whom his mother had married in 1406 but had lived with for some time previously.  Ghiberti took his name from his mother’s first husband, Cione Ghiberti, although he later claimed that Di Michele was his real father.

He moved to Pesaro in 1400 to fulfil a painting commission from the city's ruler, Sigismondo Malatesta, but returned to Florence when he heard about a competition that had been set up to find someone to make a pair of bronze doors for the Baptistery of the cathedral.  

Detail from Ghiberti's second set of doors to the baptistery, which depicts scenes from the life of Joseph
Detail from Ghiberti's second set of doors to the baptistery,
which depicts scenes from the life of Joseph
Ghiberti’s design won and the contract was signed for him to produce the doors in Di Michele’s workshop.  He began the project in 1407 and it would take him until 1424 to complete. He actually created two sets of doors; the first, for the Baptistery, depicted scenes from the New Testament, the second, with ten square panels and deemed to be superior to the first, scenes from the Old Testament.

It was Michelangelo who suggested they were of such quality they would be worthy of being chosen as the Gates of Paradise.  The painter and art historian Giorgio Vasari declared then to be “undeniably perfect in every way”.

Although, it was the doors that established Ghiberti’s reputation he took other commissions, including gilded bronze statues of St John the Baptist for niches of the Orsanmichele church in Florence and the Arte di Calimala (Wool Merchants' Guild) and one of St. Matthew for the Arte di Cambio (Bankers' Guild). He  also produced a bronze figure of St. Stephen for the Arte della Lana (Wool Manufacturers' Guild).

He also wrote what is considered to be the first autobiography of an artist, which formed part of I Commentarii. 

I Commentarii has come to be regarded as one of the most important sources of information about the Renaissance and the art of the period.

Ghiberti was an influential figure in many ways.  Among the artists who worked in his studios as they were making their way in the world included Donatello, Masolino di Panichale, Michelozzo di Bartolomeo Michelozzi, Paolo Uccello, and Antonio Pollaiuolo.

He married Marsilia, the 16-year-old daughter of Bartolomeo di Luca, a wool carder. They had two sons – Tommaso, who was born in 1417, and Vittorio born the following year – who both joined Ghiberti in his business, Vittorio taking over the workshop after his father’s death.

The market square in Pelago
The market square in Pelago
Travel tip:

Pelago, a small town in Tuscany about 20km (12 miles) east of Florence, was developed by the Etruscans on the site of a settlement thought to date back to the Paleolithic period. It grew around a castle built in the 11th century in an area rich in castles, usually built on the top of a hill.  At the foot of Pelago Castle is a marketplace and a number of palaces once owned by wealthy noblemen.  The church of San Clemente, which originates in the 12th century and now contains a museum, can be found within the castle walls.

Florence's Duomo is one of the most familiar sights in Italy
Florence's Duomo is one of the most familiar sights in Italy
Travel tip:

The Florence Duomo - the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore - with its enormous dome by Filippo Brunelleschi and campanile by Giotto, is one of Italy's most recognisable and most photographed sights, towering above the city and the dominant feature of almost every cityscape. From groundbreaking to consecration, the project took 140 years to complete and involved a series of architects. Arnolfo di Cambio, who also designed the church of Santa Croce and the Palazzo Vecchio was the original architect engaged and it was to his template, essentially, that the others worked.  When he died in 1410, 14 years after the first stone was laid, he was succeeded by Giotto, who himself died in 1337, after which his assistant Andrea Pisano took up the project.  Pisano died in 1348, as the Black Death swept Europe, and a succession of architects followed, culminating in Brunelleschi, who won a competition - against Ghiberti, as it happens - to build the dome, which remains the largest brick-built dome ever constructed.

15 April 2017

Filippo Brunelleschi – architect

Genius who designed the largest brick dome ever constructed

Brunelleschi's Dome dominates the Florence skyline
Brunelleschi's Dome dominates the Florence skyline
One of the founding fathers of the Renaissance, Filippo Brunelleschi, died on this day in 1446 in Florence.

He is remembered for developing a technique for linear perspective in art and for building the dome of Florence Cathedral.

However, his achievements also included sculpture, mathematics, engineering and ship design.

Brunelleschi was born in 1377 in Florence. According to his biographer, Antonio Manetti, and the historian Giorgio Vasari, his father was Brunellesco di Lippo, a notary. Filippo’s education would have equipped him to follow in his father’s footsteps but because he was artistically inclined he was enrolled in the silk merchants guild, which also included goldsmiths and metal workers, and he became a master goldsmith in 1398.

Luigi Pampaloni's 1838 statue of Brunelleschi in Piazza Duomo
Luigi Pampaloni's 1838 statue of
Brunelleschi in Piazza Duomo
In 1401 he entered a competition to design a new set of bronze doors for the Baptistery in Florence. His entry and that of Lorenzo Ghiberti are the only two to have survived.

In the first few years of the 15th century, Brunelleschi and his friend, Donatello, visited Rome together to study the ancient ruins. It is believed they were the first to study the physical fabric of the ruins in any detail.

Brunelleschi’s first architectural commission was the Ospedale degli Innocenti, (Foundling Hospital) in Florence. It had a long loggia and impressive high arches. Later he used similar features in his designs for chapels in Florence.

In 1418 a competition was held for a design for the dome of the new cathedral in Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore. The original designs made provision for a dome when building began in 1296 but no one had been able to work out how to construct one on such a scale. Again the two main competitors were Ghiberti and Brunelleschi, with Brunelleschi winning and receiving the commission.

The dome was to take up most of the rest of Brunelleschi’s life and its success has been attributed to his technical and mathematical genius. Hence it became known as Brunelleschi’s Dome.

The loggia within Brunelleschi's Ospedale degli Innocenti
The loggia is a feature of the Ospedale degli Innocenti
He used more than four million bricks in the construction and invented a new hoisting machine for raising the masonry to the dome, inspired by Roman machines used in the first century AD.

Away from his architectural work, Brunelleschi was also granted the first modern patent for his invention of a river transport vessel. In 1427, he built an enormous ship named Il Badalone to transport marble to Florence from Pisa up the Arno river. Unfortunately, the ship sank on its maiden voyage,

After Brunelleschi’s death, at the age of around 69, his body was placed in the crypt of the cathedral in Florence. Inside the entrance is his epitaph: ‘Both the magnificent dome of this famous church and many other devices invented by Filippo the architect, bear witness to his superb skill. Therefore, in tribute to his exceptional talents a grateful country that will always remember him buries him here in the soil below.’

Brunelleschi's Dome illuminated at night
Brunelleschi's Dome illuminated at night
Travel tip:

Brunelleschi’s Dome was finally put in place in 1436 and the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore was consecrated by Pope Eugene IV on 25 March that year. The dome remained the largest in the world until others were constructed using new materials that had been developed for building in modern times. But Brunelleschi’s Dome, the first in history to be built without a wooden frame, is still the largest brick dome ever constructed.  The sculptor Luigi Pampaloni created a statue of Brunelleschi in about 1838, placing it in Piazza del Duomo in a position from which Brunelleschi appears to be looking up at his work.

Hotels in Florence by

Travel tip:

The Ospedale degli Innocenti, literally Hospital of the Innocents, is a magnificent building that still stands in Florence. Brunelleschi was commissioned to design it in 1419 and it is now regarded as a notable example of early Italian Renaissance architecture. The loggia with its nine semi-circular arches faces on to Piazza Santissima Annunziata, a square that is not far from Galleria dell’Accademia, which houses Michelangelo’s sculpture of David.

More reading:

Gian Lorenzo Bernini - the Florentine who helped shape Rome

Why Carlo Maderno's facade of St Peter's attracted criticism

Antonio Palladio - the world's favourite architect

Also on this day: 

(Picture credits: Florence skyline by Rufus46; Ospedale degli Innocenti by Warburg; Dome at night by Petar Milosevic; all via Wikimedia Commons)