Wednesday, December 12, 2012
BRUNELLESCHI AND THE REBIRTH OF ARCHITECTURE: THE FOUNDING FATHERS OF THE RENAISSANCE SERIES
Like the other men discussed in this series—his fellow founding fathers of the Renaissance—little is known about the childhood of Filippo Brunelleschi. Like the others, he was born in Florence. (What was in the water there and then, to make such geniuses, create such men; one can only wonder, at such innovative thunder.) Brunellesco di Lippo (a lawyer, though we may forgive him for that for conceiving such a genius) and Guiliana Spini gave birth to their second son in 1377. Eventually the middle child of three sons, his father wished for Filippo to follow him into the law, but Brunelleschi was drawn to artistic endeavors and there he would remain.
At fifteen, the young Filippo began his goldsmith apprenticeship in 1392 in the studio of Benincasa Lotti, as did Donatello. Together they found themselves in the slums of the Santa Croce quarter. His studies included mounting, embossing, and engraving as well as the science of motion, using wheels, gears, cogs, and weights. During those years, Brunelleschi met a man who would have a major influence on his education and thought processes. Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli was both merchant and medical doctor who’s predilections for science and mathematics found expression in the tutelage of the young artist—a sculptor from a young age—in the principles of geometry.
According to the International Dictionary of Architects, Brunelleschi immersed himself in the study of antiquity, paying greatest attention to the triumphs of Roman engineering. The construction of the Pantheon, most particularly the dome, mesmerized him. His goal was not to learn to reproduce Roman architecture, but to enrich the architecture of his own time with the influence of classicism and to perfect his engineering skills.
Brunelleschi returned to Florence a changed man, a man who had been forever altered by his immersion in ancient architecture, a man who had rediscovered the principles of linear perspective using mirrors, a man who had found confidence in his own abilities. Coinciding with his return, Florence launched another competition: their magnificent cathedral required a new dome, a self-supporting dome, a structure no one had successful created to date. While Brunelleschi felt confident he could do it, the rulers of Florence were not so sure and required the former goldsmith to prove his architectural acumen, which he did with great aplomb.
It is in this dome, the Duomo de Santa Maria di Fiora, that a one of the most horrendous of human acts of violence took place but a half century after its creation; it is in the midst of this horrific act that my trilogy—my current work in progress—will begin.
All artists of all mediums—literature, architecture, painting, and sculpture—have much to thank these men—these founding fathers of the Renaissance—for. It has been a great pleasure to dedicate these last few posts to their astounding contributions. As one who can trace my lineage back to Florence, most importantly, I thank them for their eternal inspiration.