Filarete

Full Name: 
Filarete
Other Names: 
Antonio di Pietro Averlino
Place Born: 
Florence, Italy
Place Died: 
Rome, Italy
Home Country: 
Italy
Overview: 
Sculptor and architect, theorist who wrote on the origins of architecture. Antonio di Pietro Averlino assumed the name Filarete, adopted from the Greek term for "lover of excellence" (φιλάρετος). Filarete is first documented, already an artist, in 1433 in Rome, where he attended the coronation of the Emperor Sigismund. Pope Eugenius IV commissioned him to create the bronze door of the main porch of the old St. Peter's (dated, 1445). In 1451 Filarete moved to Milan at the invitation of the Duke Francesco Sforza (1401-1466). There he worked as an architect and architectural theorist. His most important work was the Ospedale Maggiore. He remained in Milan until 1465. In Milan Filarete wrote Trattato di architettura somewhere between 1461 and 1464. The Trattato, unlike the architectural treatises of Vitruvius or Alberti, is written as a court dialogue between an architect and his patron. Its importance as architectural history lies in his remarks on the origin of architecture--an proto architectural history--and the anthropomorphic proportions it postulates. Following Vitruvius, Filarete conceived domestic houses as the first architecture, speculating that Adam, as the first man, was also the first architect. The human head was therefore the basic unit for architectural measurement. Filarete continued his architectural theory with the orders of architecture (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian), reversing Vitruvius: the Doric column is nine, the Ionic seven and the Corinthian eight heads high. Following Vitruvius and Alberti he organized a history of buildings into public--subdivided into religious and secular--and private constructions. Filarete created a historical category, dividing structures between contemporary and ancient buildings, though the examples he uses are all fantastic or utopian. Like his fellow architectural historian/theorists Antonio Manetti and Giorgio Vasari, Filarete sees Gothic architecture as barbaric, contrasting it against the civilized architecture of antiquity that serves as a model for the buildings of Sforzinda, the visionary ideal city named after Duke (Grodecki). The Trattato di architettura was the first treatise on architecture in the Renaissance written in Italian, i.e., the vernacular instead of Latin and illustrated (Werdehausen). It remains an important work in the development of Renaissance architectural theory. It remained in manuscript. In the late 19th century it was published but by then the original had been lost. The Codex Magliabechianus copy (Florence, Bib. N. Cent., MS. ii. i. 140) is considered the closest to Filarete's original.
Sources: 
Spencer, John R. Filarete: Treatise on Architecture: Being the Treatise by Antonio di Piero Averlino, Known as Filarete. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965; Grodecki, Louis. "Definitions and Theories/Historical and Physical Circumstances." Gothic Architecture. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1977, p. 9; Werdehausen, A.E. "Filarete." Dictionary of Art 11: 72-74.
Contributor: 
Lee Sorensen