Modello in terracotta del ritratto di Brunelleschi riscoperto dopo 700 anni

Terracotta model of Brunelleschi's portrait rediscovered after 700 years

A terracotta portrait of the great Renaissance architect Filippo Brunelleschi has been added to its inventory by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore , which commissioned the work on the Florence Cathedral where Brunelleschi was buried. It is one of only four known portraits of the architect and, dating from 1447, is one of the oldest surviving terracotta portraits.

The portrait was sculpted by Andrea di Lazzaro Cavalcanti (Il Buggiano), a pupil of Brunelleschi who became his adopted son. It was recently found in a historic residence in Florence and identified by art historians Giancarlo Gentilini and Alfredo Bellandi as the model for a marble bust that Buggiano had been commissioned to create by the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore after the death of Filippo Brunelleschi. The finished marble bust sits in a tondo on the wall of the Duomo's right nave, a tribute to the man who built the cathedral's unprecedented brick and masonry dome, revolutionizing architecture in the process.

Buggiano was at his father's side when he died on 15 April 1446. He is believed to have made his father's plaster death mask that day. The funerary relief took longer to commission and create. First of all, the Arte della Lana had to establish that the final resting place of Brunelleschi's body would actually be Santa Maria del Fiore.

They decided this on December 30, more than eight months after the architect's death. On 18 February 1447 the Opera of Santa Maria del Fiore commissioned a mural monument including a realistic portrait and a commemorative epigraph. The model was completed by the end of March. The marble portrait was completed in May.

The terracotta model used by the artist probably remained in his workshop for a time, but we have no precise information on where it was or what happened in the 700 years before its rediscovery. Signs of wear indicate that it was preserved as an independent sculpture, and that over time the memory of its connection with the funerary monument was lost.

Brunelleschi head

The terracotta head with the facial features of Filippo Brunelleschi was modeled by Andrea Cavalcanti (Il Buggiano), who was Filippo's adopted son and heir ,” said Antonio Natali , councilor of the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore. “ It is known that the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore gave both of them notable commissions: Brunelleschi goes without saying. However, Buggiano will be remembered for his admirable humanistic works in the sacristies of the cathedral and, in this period, above all for the monument celebrating Brunelleschi in the cathedral, now that his terracotta head, which was the model, has been found. With these premises everyone will be able to understand how the acquisition of Santa Maria del Fiore by the Opera was in fact inevitable ”.

The work requires restoration and, although it only has a gap in the chin guard, where an old and clumsy replastering makes it seem larger, it shows scratches all over the surface and a veil of chalky residue. Traces of paint applications are also visible: one with apparently natural tones and at least two brown ones, probably used to simulate bronze, especially after the restoration of the chin.

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