Born: Florence, Italy in 1377.
Died: 15 April 1446
Education and training: Initially trained as a goldsmith and sculptor and enrolled in the Arte della Seta, the silk merchants’ guild, which also included gold smiths and other types of metalworkers.
Jobs held: Was designated chief architect while working on the Duomo.
Career highlights: Designed and built the dome for the Cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore in Florence. He also rediscovered linear perspective, which is drawing lines on an illustration to help give viewers an idea of the size, shape and position of an object on a 2D plane. The impact this had on the Renaissance period was significant because paintings went from being flat and two-dimensional to having more depth.
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His greatest and most challenging commission was the dome, called the “Duomo”, for the cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore, which is now known as the Florence Cathedral. Work on the cathedral had begun in 1296, but had no dome since no one could figure out how to how to build it without it collapsing in on itself. In 1418 the town fathers of Florence announced that they needed help in figuring out how to build the dome. They held a competition to see who could build the dome, and that whoever won would receive a rand prize of 20 gold florins, and eternal fame. Filippo entered the competition, but refused to say how it worked for fear of plagiarism. The town fathers cast him away at first, calling him a madman, but later realised that he was their only hope. He was appointed chief architect for the project, which was finished in 1436. The reason this is such a major achievement is because of the genius that was shown by Brunelleschi in designing a contraption to hoist the materials up to the staggering height of 114m. The Duomo is still standing today is is still an incredible architectural achievement of the Renaissance.
Another of Filippo Brunelleschi’s greatest achievements is the rediscovery of linear perspective. Among the cultures of the ancient world, only the Greeks and Romans understood how to create an image with convincing depth and a painted or sculpted illusion of 3-dimensional space. We know this because we can see it today in works like thee Column of Trajan, or the painted villas of Pompeii. During the Middle Ages, the entire world point of view changed to reflect the church. No longer were artists interested in pursuing perfect depictions of the human body or of the world around them. After 100 years, artists in Florence were aware that they didn’t know how to create convincing depth in a painting, and they were working hard to develop a system of perspective. Making a picture look realistic seems so simple to us now, but it was a huge problem that took centuries to solve until Filippo Brunelleschi figured it out. Brunelleschi observed that with a fixed single point of view, parallel lines appear to converge at a single point in the distance. He applied a single vanishing point to a canvas, and discovered a method for calculating depth. He was able to mathematically calculate the scale of objects within a painting to make them appear realistic. It was a monumental discovery, and soon artists were using his method of perspective to astonishing affects in their paintings. Brunelleschi’s original perspective studies are long gone, but he directly influenced many others.
Perspective 1: Donatello
Created by: Tyde Rolt
Bibliography (Reference List)
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