1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Brunelleschi, Filippo
BRUNELLESCHI (or Brunellesco), FILIPPO (1379–1446), Italian architect, the reviver in Italy of the Roman or Classic style, was born at Florence in 1379. His father, a notary, had destined him for his own profession, but observing the boy’s talent for all sorts of mechanism, placed him in the gild of goldsmiths. Filippo quickly became a skilled workman, and perfected himself in the knowledge of sculpture, perspective and geometry. He designed some portions of houses in Florence, and in 1401 he was one of the competitors for the design of the gates of the baptistery of San Giovanni. He was unsuccessful, though his work obtained praise, and he soon afterwards set out for Rome. He studied hard, and resolved to do what he could to revive the older classical style, which had died out in Italy. Moreover, he was one of the first to apply the scientific laws of perspective to his work. In 1407 he returned to Florence, just at the time when it was resolved to attempt the completion of the cathedral church of Santa Maria del Fiore. Brunelleschi’s plan for effecting this by a cupola was approved, but it was not till 1419, and after innumerable disputes, that the work was finally entrusted to him. At first he was hampered by his colleague Ghiberti, of whom he skilfully got rid. He did not live to see the completion of his great work, and the lantern on the summit was put up not altogether in accordance with the instructions and plans left by him. The great cupola, one of the triumphs of architecture, exceeds in some measurements that of St Peter’s at Rome, and has a more massive and striking appearance. Besides this masterpiece Brunelleschi executed numerous other works, among the most remarkable of which are the Pitti palace at Florence, on the pattern of which are based the Tuscan palaces of the 15th century, the churches of San Lorenzo and Spirito Santo, and the still more elegant Capella del Pazza. The beautiful carved crucifix in the church of Santa Maria Novella in Florence is also the work of Brunelleschi. He died in Florence on the 16th of April 1446, and was buried in the cathedral church of his native city.
See Manetti, Vita di Brunelleschi (Florence, 1812); Guasti, La cupola di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence, 1857); von Fabriczy, Filippo Brunelleschi (Stuttgart, 1892).