Alberti, Leon Battista


Alberti, Leon Battista
(1404-1472)
   Italian humanist and architect, unusual in that he bridged the social gap between the educated humanist and the practicing artist. Born at Genoa as the illegitimate son of an exiled Florentine banker, he studied law at Bologna but was more interested in classical studies. His humanistic writings included a Latin comedy and a collection of original dialogues and essays on moral issues, the Intercenales /Dinner Pieces. He also produced two vernacular works on love that became very popular in his own lifetime, and a treatise on domestic life, Delia famiglia / On the Family, that discussed housekeeping, estate management, marriage, and child-rearing. Alberti's literary reputation and his excellent Latin style won him employment at the papal curia. In 1432 he accompanied the curia to Florence. There he met the leading Florentine humanists and painters. Although his upbringing in northern Italy made the Tuscan literary language alien to him, he produced the first grammar of literary Italian, Grammatica della lingua toscana / Grammar of the Tuscan Language.
   Alberti was best known in later times for his De re aedificatoria / On the Art of Building (1452), a Latin treatise on the theory and practice of architecture based on the Roman architect Vitruvius. He also wrote a treatise on sculpture and the influential Elementa picturae / The Elements of Painting (1435), which contains a clear description of the principles of single-point (linear) perspective introduced into Italian art by the sculptor Donatello and the painter Masaccio. He wrote many other books, including philosophical treatises and a pioneering Latin treatise on cryptography. Alberti also became a successful architect, admired for his design of the Palazzo Rucellai in Florence and the church of S. Andrea at Mantua and for remodelling the exterior of the church of S. Francesco at Rimini in the classical style.

Historical Dictionary of Renaissance. . 2004.

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