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Filarete

(c. 1400—1469)


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(b ?Florence, c.1400; d ?Rome, c.1470).

Florentine sculptor, architect, and writer on art. His nickname, which he adopted late in life, is derived from the Greek for ‘lover of virtue’. He probably trained with Ghiberti and his most important work in sculpture—the bronze doors for St Peter's in Rome (c.1433–45)—are heavily indebted to Ghiberti's doors for the Baptistery in Florence, although much less accomplished (Vasari called them ‘deplorable’); they are one of the few parts of Old St Peter's to survive in the present building. In 1448 Filarete fled Rome under suspicion of stealing holy relics. After stays in Florence and Venice, in 1451 he settled in Milan. There he was employed mainly as an architect, his principal work being the Ospedale Maggiore (begun 1457, completed in the 18th century), which helped to introduce the Renaissance style to Lombardy and created new standards of comfort and sanitation in hospital design. His novel ideas came out also in his Treatise on Architecture, written in 1461–4 but not published until 1896. It includes a vision of an ideal city, Sforzinda (named after his patron, Francesco Sforza), which is the first symmetrical town-planning scheme of modern times. Among his ingenious proposals for his ideal city was a Tower of Virtue and Vice, a ten-storey structure accommodating a brothel on the ground floor and an astronomical observatory at the top. Vasari described the treatise as ‘perhaps the most stupid book ever written’.

Subjects: Art.


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