Leon Battista Alberti

Leon Battista Alberti

A Florentine scholar, whose skills were versatile enough to be an expert in art theory, architecture, literature, philosophy and fine arts, was Leon Battista Alberti. He was considered as the “universal genius” of his generation because of his wide range of expertise. Because of this, he gifted the Italians with a lot of groundbreaking works that influenced several Renaissance artists and Humanists over the century.

Battista Alberti’s major works include but not limited to the following:

  • Architecture – facades of Sta. Maria Novella, Tempio Malatestiano, Palazzo Rucellai, Church of San Andrea, etc. He also had multiple book publications on architecture.
  • Philosophy and Literature – On the Family, book on Italian Grammar, De Componendis Cifris, Lover of Glory, The Origins of the Gods, etc.
  • Cryptography – Alberti Cipher
  • Painting – On Painting
  • Early Life

One of the illegitimate sons of Lorenzo Alberti, Leon Battista Alberti was well-loved by his father that they supported all of his educational and wisdom pursuits. He came from an affluent family in Florence was born on February 14, 1404. Contributing to his very comfortable life was the passion for mathematics and the arts that he acquired from his father, Lorenzo. And this served him well as he became highly successful in various disciplines.

Leon Alberti received his primary education from Gasparino Barzizza in Padua from 1416 to 1418. Over there, he studied Latin and Literature, which honed him to become a writer. Literary writing was one of his first jobs, in fact, he had wrote a comedy in Latin that was regarded as the same level of ancient Roman dramatists by his mentors.

Major Contributions of Leon Battista Alberti

In 1428, he pursued a doctorate in Canon Law degree at the University of Bologna although he did become a prominent lawyer. Instead, he did take on a secretarial job for the Papal Chancery department where he had to re-write biographies of Saints in Latin. Needless to say, the late 1420’s had been a career stint that he devoted to the Church.

On the plus side, Alberti’s employment to the Chancery opened new career paths for him because he was given the chance to visit different places throughout the year. Here and there, he gained a significant amount of experience and knowledge in a vast range of disciplines which served as a springboard for him to create groundbreaking books, cartographies, building designs and art theories.

Leon Alberti is particularly famous in the field of architecture and engineering. He was a pupil of Vitruvius, a classical Roman specialist, and thus one can see that Alberti’s designs highly resemble the ancient Roman buildings. The multi-faceted genius had also been contracted by Pope Nicholas V for years to restore several structures such as the Roman Acqueduct of Acqua Vergine.

From 1446 to 1477, Leon Alberti had been preoccupied with designing and restoring facades of various churches and villas in Florence. One of his most remarkable works of art is the façade he designed for Santa Maria Novella between 1448 and 1470. Although the building was classified as Gothic, Alberti introduced some ancient Roman features in its polychromy and portico sections. He was able to do this by adding pilasters, tesserae, pediment and cornices that originated from the Classical period.

Aside from being a well-known architect and engineer, Alberti was also a Humanist, a formidable figure of the movement. A prime example of a treatise he dedicated to this movement is De Pictura (1435), a study focused on interpreting perspectives on how people see and perceive beings and non-living things. His other treatises mainly serve as a guidebook for Renascimento artists, with Donatello, Brunelleschi and Ghiberti as protagonists in the book.

Final Years

Leon Battista Alberti is a man whose genius was utilized to benefit his countrymen. He authored multiple practical handbook guides on architecture and art theory (Humanism) that influenced the succeeding Italian artists. His last work was the On the Man of Excellence and Ruler of His Family, a dialogue that revealed so much about his life and career. Alberti died at the age of 68 on April 20, 1472 in Rome.