Leone Battista Alberti

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Leon Battista Alberti[1] (February 18, 1404 – April 20, 1472) was an Italian author, artist, architect, poet, priest, linguist, philosopher, and cryptographer, and general Renaissance humanist polymath: though he is often characterized as "architect" James Beck observes,[2] "to single out one of Leon Battista's 'fields' over others as somehow functionally independent and self-sufficient is of no help at all to any effort to characterize Alberti's extensive explorations in the fine arts." Alberti's life was described in Giorgio Vasari's Vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori, e architettori or 'Lives of the most excellent painters, sculptors and architects'.

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Childhood and education

An Italian humanist, Alberti is often seen as a model of the Renaissance "universal man".[3] He was born in Genoa, one of two illegitimate sons of a wealthy Florentine merchant, Lorenzo Alberti. Leon Battista's mother, Bianca Fieschi, was a Bolognese widow who died during an outbreak of bubonic plague. Like many other families, the Albertis had been expelled from their native city, Florence, by the republican government, run by the Albizzis. At the time of Leon Battista's birth, his father Lorenzo lived in Genoa, but the family soon moved to Venice, where Lorenzo ran the family bank with his brother. Lorenzo married again in 1408. The ban on the family was lifted in 1428, and that same year Leon visited Florence for the first time.

Alberti received the best education then available to an Italian nobleman. From around 1414 to 1418 he studied classics at the famous school of Gasparino Barzizza in Padua. He then completed his education at the University of Bologna, where he studied law. In his youth, according to stories, Alberti could—with his feet together—jump over a man's head, he was a superb horseman, and he "learned music without a master, and yet his compositions were admired by professional judges." [4]

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