Filippo Brunelleschi

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Filippo Brunelleschi (1377 – April 15, 1446) was one of the foremost architects and engineers of the Italian Renaissance. All of his principal works are in Florence, Italy. As explained by Antonio Manetti, who knew Brunelleschi and who wrote his biography, Brunelleschi "was granted such honors as to be buried in the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, and with a marble bust, which they say was carved from life, and placed there in perpetual memory with such a splendid epitaph."[2]


Early life

Very little is known about the early life of Brunelleschi; the only sources are Antonio Manetti and Giorgio Vasari.[3] According to these sources, Filippo's father was Brunellesco di Lippo, a lawyer, and his mother was Giuliana Spini. Filippo was the middle of their three children. The young Filippo was given a literary and mathematical education intended to enable him to follow in the footsteps of his father, a civil servant. Being artistically inclined, however, Filippo enrolled in the Arte della Seta, the Silkmakers' Guild, which included goldsmiths, metalworkers, and bronze workers. He became a master goldsmith in 1398. It was thus not a coincidence that his first important commission, the Ospedale degli Innocenti, came from the same guild to which he belonged.[4]

In 1401, Brunelleschi entered a competition to design a new set of bronze doors for the baptistery in Florence. Along with another young goldsmith, Lorenzo Ghiberti, he produced a gilded bronze panel, depicting the Sacrifice of Isaac. His entry made reference to a classical statue, known as the 'thorn puller', whilst Ghiberti used a naked torso for his figure of Isaac. In 1403, Ghiberti was announced the victor, largely because of his superior technical skill: his panel showed a more sophisticated knowledge of bronze-casting; it was completed in one single piece. Brunelleschi's piece, by contrast, consisted of numerous pieces bolted to the back plate. Ghiberti went on to complete a second set of bronze doors for the baptistery, whose beauty Michelangelo extolled a hundred years later, saying "surely these must be the "Gates of Paradise".[5]

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