Saturday, November 11, 2006

Bernardo Rossellino

Bernardo di Matteo Gamberelli ( Settignano near Florence 1409 – died Sept. 23, 1464, Florence), better known as Bernardo Rossellino, was a Florentine sculptor and architect, the elder brother of the painter Antonio Rossellino.

Both brothers were responsible for some of the most important sculptural projects in Florence between 1440 and 1470. Although both artists are now referred to as Rossellino (‘little redhead’), this nickname was applied specifically to Antonio; the family name used by both brothers in documents is Gamberelli.

By 1399 their father, Matteo Gamberelli, was living in Settignano, where his five sons were born. Matteo and his brothers were masons, and all his sons were trained as such. The eldest son, Domenico Gamberelli (b ?1402–5), was approximately five years older than Bernardo; Giovanni Gamberelli was born in 1412 or 1413 and Tomaso Gamberelli sometime between 1415 and 1422. Antonio was the youngest. In 1451 the elder brothers filed an estimo at the death of their father; at this point they were all living together near S Ambrogio, Florence. In the same year Antonio filed an estimo separately with two nephews, both sons of Bernardo, in the quarter of Santo Spirito. It is, however, generally presumed that all five brothers usually worked together under the management of Bernardo, although some evidence suggests they occasionally worked separately.

As a young man Rossellino was trained by Filippo Brunelleschi and was influenced by Luca della Robbia and Lorenzo Ghiberti. Rossellino was the collaborator of Leone Battista Alberti, from whose sketches and plans he constructed the Palazzo Rucellai, Florence, one of the very first fully Renaissance palazzi.
It bears three orders on flat pilasters inscribed on a surface of delicate and varied rustication, beeneath a corbelled cornice without a frieze. At Arezzo he applied a façade all'antica to the late Gothic structure of the charitable confraternity, the Fraternità della Misericordia.

Rossellino was active in Tuscany and Rome, where he worked a lot for Pope Nicholas V, enlarging the transept and apse of the old St Peter's Basilica (1452–55) that was swept away in the following generation. Among lesser projects carried out in Rome for Nicholas was restoration of Santo Stefano Rotondo, c. 1450, where Rossellino's altar may still be seen.

Rosselino became famous most of all for the idealized replanning of Pienza, the ancient district of Corsignano, where Pope Pius II wanted to make a monument of his birth place, designed according to the principles of the Renaissance urbanistics and architecture. He made the center with the square and main constructions, the Duomo, Palazzo Pubblico, bishop's palace (Palazzo Vescovile), and the Palazzo Piccolomini, which were to be surrounded by the rest of the little city. In the Palazzo Piccolomini, Pienza, Rossellino took up again the façade organization of Palazzo Rucellai.

In architecture he innovated the mural funeral monument, with the wall tomb of Leonardo Bruni in Santa Croce in Florence, (1444 – 1447) which became immediately famous. In it he depicted the late Florentine chancellor lying in repose on a sarcophagus, in a shallow reveal within the thickness of the wall, set within an arched entablature supported on pilasters, recalling the central opening of a triumphal arch, with a relief of the Madonna in the tympanum. This type of tomb was taken up by other artists, first of all by Rossellino's townsman Desiderio da Settignano. The work, establishing a fine balance between sculpture and architecture, figure and decoration, became the prototypical wall monument of its time.

Among other sculptural commissions in architectural formats, Bernardo designed the tomb of La Beata Villana in the Church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, and that of the jurist, Filippo Lazzari, in the Church of San Domenico at Pistoia, and the tomb of Orlando de' Medici (1456–57) in Santissima Annunziata, Florence,. He provided a richly ornamented marble doorway for the Palazzo Publico at Siena, and a terracotta panel representing the Annunciation is in the cathedral at Arezzo.