The Pursuit of Perfection

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The Pursuit of Perfection: the Reintroduction of Ancient Roman Principles to Architecture by Renaissance Architects Leon Battista Alberti and Fillipo Brunelleschi

Dustan Byler

Professor Rachel Mundie
Art History II
October 31, 2011

Fillipo Brunelleschi and Leon Battista Alberti were two of the most important and famous 15th century architects in Italy. The façade of the Basilica San’Andrea (Figure 1) by Alberti and the Florence Cathedral Dome (Figure 2) by Brunelleschi are their respective crowning achievements. A sense of mathematical proportion; drawn from researching ancient Greek and Roman buildings and ruins1, contrasts their work with the current but fading Gothic style of architecture that was in mode at the turn of the century. The amount of influence on Renaissance architecture the two architects wielded is quite impressive. Brunelleschi was a pioneer in many aspects; and Alberti, his apprentice, followed in his footsteps. Both of them were well aware of the timelessness of Roman architectural principles and used them to great effect while also improving them. Both of the architects also studied painting and it showed in their work. Brunelleschi was one of the first artists to paint in vanishing linear perspective. This style of painting makes a two dimensional image appear to be three dimensional.2 His paintings inspired many of his contemporaries, including Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Alberti. None of his paintings or perspective drawings survives today. Alberti was a very well rounded individual. He wrote books on architecture and painting and studied sculpture. De re aedificatoria, his treatise on architecture, was the eminent reference book for architects for many years. His careful study of these arts, his knowledge of the ancient Roman principles of architecture and the tutelage of Brunelleschi gave him the knowledge to put it all together and add his own touch to Basilica San’Andrea (Figure 1)....
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