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Filippo Brunelleschi (Florence, 1377-1446)

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Architect, perspectivist, and sculptor

We know little about Filippo Brunelleschi's career until 1418-20, when we find him engaged in various architectural projects that were to change the face of Florence: the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, the Spedale degli Innocenti, and the churches of San Lorenzo and Santo Spirito. He seems to have made several earlier trips to Rome to study classical architecture.

In this period he painted, by the aid of a mirror, two panels showing the Baptistry and Piazza della Signoria in perspective. These works?now lost?marked the birth of linear perspective.

Also in the same years, Brunelleschi built mechanical clocks, of which only indirect accounts survive. His work as a sculptor is better documented. In fact, it was back in 1401 that he competed unsuccessfully against Lorenzo Ghiberti for the construction of the second bronze door of the Baptistry of Florence.

The competition for Florence dome

In 1418 Brunelleschi entered a new competition against Ghiberti to submit a model for the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore. Brunelleschi won the contest in 1420 with a proposal to erect the dome without wooden centering.

Civil and military engineer

In 1421 Brunelleschi applied for public protection of one of his inventions: a boat to carry marble slabs from the Carrara quarries to the gates of Florence, sailing upstream on the Arno.

Brunelleschi excelled in hydraulic applications as well. He also enjoyed a considerable reputation as architect and military engineer, as well as producer of "high-tech" stage sets for shows and festivals. One example was the complex scenic machinery installed in 1425 in the church of Santa Felicita in Florence.




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