Filippo Brunelleschi: Artwork, Architecture & Facts Video

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  • 0:03 Filippo Brunelleschi
  • 1:46 Brunelleschi's Ospedale
  • 2:46 The Cathedral and the Dome
  • 4:44 The Pazzi Chapel
  • 5:42 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

Explore the life and work of Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi and test your understanding of the Italian Renaissance, European history, and art.

Filippo Brunelleschi

Filippo Brunelleschi, who lived from 1377-1446, was one of the greatest architects and engineers of his time. He was born in Florence, Italy to a prominent lawyer and was given intense schooling. Filippo decided he wanted to be an artist and joined the silk merchant's guild, an art program funded by the wealthy silk merchants of Florence, Italy. Here, he learned art and earned the title of master goldsmith in 1398.

In 1401, Brunelleschi entered a competition to design the bronze doors of the Florence Cathedral Baptistery, but lost to Lorenzo Ghiberti. From around 1402 to 1404, Brunelleschi and his friend Donatello, one of the most influential sculptors of the era, went to Rome to study ruins. People of the era loved ancient Greek and Roman culture, but until Brunelleschi and Donatello, nobody had really studied their architecture.

Brunelleschi was one of the foremost figures of the Italian Renaissance, a period from roughly 1300 to 1600. The Renaissance was characterized by new wealth and intellectualism, a huge passion for the arts, religious fervor, and a devotion to ancient Rome and Greece as the origins of European civilization. Artists began emulating Roman styles by the late 1300s, and Brunelleschi was one of the first to incorporate those styles into architecture. These arts were commissioned by individuals and guilds who demonstrated their incredible wealth and power by philanthropically sponsoring murals, sculptures, and building projects across their cities.

Brunelleschi's Ospedale

Brunelleschi's first architectural commission was to build an orphan hospital in Florence, called the Ospedale degli Innocenti. Brunelleschi received the commission from the silk guild that trained him as a master goldsmith. The Ospedale reflects a sense of calm, ordered reason. The height of the columns is the same as the width between them, and the width of the covered sidewalk is the same, making a cube. The entablature, the line of arches above the columns, is half the height of the columns.

Every part of the Ospedale is built in relation to the others to create an intellectual and emotional calm. As opposed to the popular style before this, the Ospedale had little decoration so that the viewer could focus on the architecture. The Ospedale was the first building in Florence to revive the ancient Roman styles and made a huge impact on Italian culture. Filippo Brunelleschi became famous and received many more commissions.

The Cathedral and the Dome

Brunelleschi's next major impact on architecture was the one for which he is probably most famous. The Santa Maria del Fiore, which is the most prominent Cathedral in Florence. It was actually the same cathedral Brunelleschi had competed to design the baptistery doors for, but by 1418 was still incomplete. The church needed a dome to cover the middle section, and nobody could figure out how to build it. The dome needed to be massive, too large for regular scaffolding, and would be too heavy for normal dome styles, many of which hadn't even been attempted since ancient Rome. The wool merchant's guild sponsored a competition to design the dome, and Brunelleschi won. The project included the actual dome and two pieces to balance the weight; the structure on top called the exedra, and the lamp that hung from it.

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