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Book Review

Book: Brunelleschi's Dome
Author: Ross King
Published: October, 2001
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)

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Synopsis: Brunelleschiís Dome is an historical account of how Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi designed and oversaw the construction of the enormous dome of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence during the Italian Renaissance. King presents the technical obstacles Brunelleschi encountered in designing a masonry dome of such magnitude and the daring and imagination that led to his major architectural innovation. In addition, the book attempts to bring to life not only the personality of the architect himself but also the personalities of the many other artists and common workers involved in the building and design of the cathedral.

Editorís Review: With the assistance of official records and biographies, and without the use of fictional dialogue, King succeeds in painting a vivid portrait of Filippo Brunelleschi as artist, goldsmith, clockmaker, machine designer, and architect. King provides possible sources of inspiration for Brunelleschiís genius and numerous examples of his accomplishments. Beginning with a failed attempt to win the commission for the bronze doors for the Baptistery, King outlines the reasons behind Brunelleschiís well-known rivalry with artist Lorenzo Ghiberti. Practical jokes, insulting poetry and official complaints add amusement and disbelief, reminding the reader that life during the Renaissance also had itís share of workplace intrigues. King provides a comprehensible explanation of architectural concepts and building techniques of the time period, and makes clear the challenges of constructing the cathedral dome. Also provided is a wealth of other technical information, such as how to evaluate a sample of stone and how bricks are made, that add interest to what could otherwise be a dry subject. King also brings to life the myriad of other artisans and workers involved in the design and construction of the cathedral through details of their daily existence. Faithful descriptions of the political and economic environment give the reader a historical backdrop for cultural elements of the book. Although Brunelleschiís Dome is extremely well-written and thorough, itís technical descriptions will prove challenging for the non-mechanically oriented, who may have to expend some effort to understand the architectural concepts involved in constructing a building. Although there are various illustrations to assist the reader with understanding mechanical terms, various devices such as lewis bolts and turnbuckles are not illustrated. Also not illustrated are the basic architectural elements of a cathedral, such as nave, tribune, drum, choir and tambour, causing the reader who is unfamiliar with these terms to search for these definitions if they are forgotten. Structurally, this book is superb, with the exception of a rather large digression on navigation in the chapter 17. Overall, the architectural concepts presented in Brunelleschiís Dome may escape all but the mechanically inclined but there is still enough to spare in this book to provide an interesting sketch of Brunelleschi and his contemporaries in the context of Renaissance life to satisfy the art history enthusiast with an interest in architecture.

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Diana Blake is a professional artist and art history enthusiast. Her fascination with art history began when she encountered European art firsthand during several trips abroad as a young adult. As she began to compose a portfolio for her own art career, she called upon what she had seen in Europe and extended her knowledge to other styles of art through profuse reading and exhaustive research. As a result, Diana has written more than one hundred articles in which she delves into a variety of art history topics and she has compiled a list of links that she believes to be invaluable for art history enthusiasts. In addition, she also reviews books and movies on the topic of art history and has assembled an extensive list of online stores that sell books, movies and gift items related to art history.
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