Leone Battista Alberti

Alberti, Leone Battista, 1404–72, Italian architect, musician, painter, and humanist, active at the papal court, Florence, Rimini, and Mantua. Alberti was the first architect to argue for the correct use of the classical orders during the Renaissance. His ecclesiastical works include the exteriors of the churches of San Francesco in Rimini (begun 1451), Sant' Andrea in Mantua (c.1470), and part of the facade of Santa Maria Novella in Florence (c.1458–70). On the facade of the Palazzo Rucellai in Florence (c.1452–70), Alberti used tiers of superimposed classical orders, as inspired by such antique buildings as the Roman Colosseum. Alberti was the author of several important treatises on the visual arts. His De re aedificatoria, written c.1450, became the first printed book on architecture (1485). Although largely dependent on Vitruvius, it was the first modern work on the subject, and it included important new material. His treatise on painting (1436) was the first book in this field to treat theory as well as technique. His treatise on sculpture (c.1464) was another pioneering work in its field, and it was significant for its discussion of human proportions.

See his On Painting, tr. by J. R. Spencer (rev. ed. 1966) and his Ten Books of Architecture, tr. by G. Leoni (1755, repr. 1986); biography by A. Grafton (2000).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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