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Leon Battista Alberti and the De Re Aedificatoria

Posted June 21st, 2012 at 02:54 AM by jttwong

I initially intended for this post and the previous one regarding idealism & perspective in Renaissance architecture to be a single post. However, on second thought, Alberti deserves his own post and not just included with the a discussion of Renaissance for his unprecedented influence on architectural history that last to this day.

Unlike his predecessor, Filippo Brunelleschi, Alberti does not have significant influential buildings like Brunelleschiís dome or the Ospedale Degli Innocenti. Instead, Alberti was more prominent in terms of the theories along with his beliefs. He was also famous for his book published in 1485, De Re Aedificatoria, as it was the first book ever to be published about architecture and was treated as a classic for the centuries following. The De Re Aedificatoria was extremely significant towards the enhancement of Albertiís career as it gave him the name Florentine Vitruvius. The book was based upon Vitruviusís treatise, the Ten Books of Architecture.

The De Re Aedificatoria was subdivided into ten books that provided Albertiís commandments on how to construct buildings. Yet, the significance of this text does not lie upon the principles it provides, but rather Albertiís own theories about Renaissance architecture. His theories were the usage of variety to create beauty and his theory was the approval of the reliance upon a plurality of models with realism.

The theories were uniquely different from Brunelleschi and the mainstream Renaissance theories that uniformity created beauty. As Alberti stated that ď[an artistís] fame should all be all the greater if without preceptors and without any model to imitate we discover arts and sciences hitherto unheard of and unseen.Ē This theory could have been one of the initial origins of Baroque architecture which was focused upon the awing of others with the usage of overwhelming scale. I hold this belief because the scale of Baroque architecture was actually something unknown to the 17th century Europeans thus fits under Albertiís statement of the innovative triumphing over the monotonous.

The significance of Albertiís De Re Aedificatoria was beyond that of Baroque era, since Tafuriís claim that Alberti approves of ďZeuxian aestheticĒ can also be denoted his style was exactly that of the Renaissance artistic style. This completely demonstrated the importance of Alberti towards the Renaissance. Although his first theory was not as Renaissance as it was Baroque, his second was the heart of the Renaissance. Perspectiveís significance actually comes from the Renaissance need for the creation of realism thus effectively showing that without realism, along with the scientific view upon everything, there would have been no Renaissance; therefore, Albertiís theories place him along with Brunelleschiís as one of the forefathers of the Renaissance.
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