Leon Battista Alberti was born in Genoa (Italy) in 1404. The first theorist of Humanist art, Alberti belonged to an important Florentine family that had been exiled from Florence since 1387. When the family returned to the city in 1429 Alberti gained access to the city’s great architecture and art which he studied extensively. Well-versed in Latin and Greek, Alberti never received a formal architectural education. His architectural ideas were the product of his own studies and research.
Alberti’s two main architectural writings are De Pictura (1435), in which he emphatically declares the importance of painting as a base for architecture and De Re Aedificatoria (1450) his theoretical masterpiece. Like Vitruvius’s Ten Books on Architecture, De Re Aedificatoria was subdivided into ten books. Unlike Vitruvius’s book, Alberti’s told architects how buildings should be built, not how they were built. De Re Aedificatoria remained the classic treatise on architecture from the sixteenth century until the eighteenth century.
The unfinished Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini (1450) was the first building that Alberti designed and attempted to build based on his architectural principals. Up to that point Alberti’s architectural experience was purely theoretic. The facade of Santa Maria Novella (1458-71) is considered his greatest achievement since it allows the pre-existing and newly added parts of the building to merge into a clear statement of his new principles.
Alberti died in Rome in 1472.
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