Few buildings are as famously identified with their city as Florence and its Duomo, Filippo Brunelleschi's brilliantly designed egg-shaped dome that has defined the Florentine skyline since its creation in 1436. Unbeknownst to most of the millions who gaze at it in awe – and the few who bravely scale its heights – the race or "duel" to win the commission of the Duomo was a remarkably dramatic story.
Involving some of the leading creative minds of the Italian Renaissance, including Brunelleschi himself, his arch-rival Lorenzo Ghiberti, and Brunelleschi's sidekick the sculptor Donatello, the competition to be the famed Duomo's designer set this dramatic architectural stunner up for fame from its very birth. It was as if Renaissance Italy's most skilled artists knew this structure would earn a place in history. So what exactly happened? Why were these artists drawn to this concept? How did they vie for the commission? And what gave Brunelleschi the successful edge?
Join Professor Joseph Luzzi as he explores this Duel for the Duomo, the drawn-out struggle to win the artistic commission of a lifetime – one that illuminates vibrant and essential elements of Renaissance life and art, showing how competition inspired artistic vision and how beauty defined Florence's civic and political identity.
Joseph Luzzi received his Ph.D. from Yale University and is a Professor of Comparative Literature and Faculty Member in Italian Studies at Bard College, where he has taught since 2002 after being a visiting faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania. A frequent contributor to publications including the New York Times, TLS, and Chronicle of Higher Education, he is the author of 5 books, including "My Two Italies," a New York Times Editors' Choice selection and "In a Dark Wood: What Dante Taught Me About Grief, Healing, and the Mysteries of Love," a Vanity Fair “Must-Read” selection. His work has been translated into multiple languages and his many awards include a Yale College Teaching Prize, Dante Society of America Essay Prize, and Wallace Fellowship at Villa I Tatti, Harvard's Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. In 2017 he was named Cittadino Onorario/Honorary Citizen in Acri, Calabria, his Italian parents' birthplace. His next book is "Botticelli's Secret: The Lost Drawings and the Rediscovery of the Renaissance," which will be published by W. W. Norton. Professor Luzzi is the founder of the Virtual Book Club, an online community of readers dedicated to exploring some of the best books ever written. Learn more at JosephLuzzi.com.
This conversation is suitable for all ages.
60 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.