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Famous people of Florence: Dante AlighieriDANTE ALIGHIERI

Durante Alighieri (Dante being a nickname) was born in Florence in May or June 1265, into a low-aristocracy family, who were not very wealthy, of the Guelfo party. Dante himself went onto become a white guelfo. In about 1285 he married Gemma di Manetto Donati, and they had three or maybe four children.
Dante’s first studies were mainly in rhetoric, grammar, philosophy, literature and theology. He was a disciple of Brunetto Latini, who strongly influenced Dante’s cultural growth. In his youth, he was a Stilnovo poet and had many friends among the other members of the Stilnovo Poetical School, especially Guido Cavalcanti. After the death of Bice di Folco Portinari, with whom Dante was in love, he began studying philosophy and theology in depth, also attending some of the Florentine cultural associations, which provided lessons mainly about Aristotle and St. Thomas.
His political career began when Dante joined a Medical Corporation in 1295. In the following five years his career grew quickly and culminated in his becoming a priore, a type of governor, in 1300. However, due to serious internal struggles between the white and black guelfi Dante made some hard-line political decisions, which resulted in him being sentenced to death.
From this moment on, Dante roamed many Italian courts never again to return to Florence, He died in Ravenna, in 1321 and was buried in San Pier Maggiore’s Church where his tomb still exists today.
Dante wrote many works including the Vita Nuova, Convivio and De Vulgari Eloquentia. However the Divina Commedia (Italian for "divine comedy") is Dante’s masterpiece and is the best literal expression of medieval culture. The Dante’s original title of the work was simply Commedia, but then Giovanni Boccaccio suggested adding the adjective Divina ("divine") in order both to explain the kind of content and to celebrate the greatness and beauty of the work. Dante’s main purpose in writing the Commedia was to preach the necessity of a moral and religious renewal for everybody, in order to get ready for the after-life and to ascend to Heaven, eternally saved. Dante acts as a prophet who speaks on behalf of God to the whole mankind.

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Famous people of Florence: Giovanni BoccaccioGIOVANNI BOCCACCIO

Boccaccio’s father, a wealthy bank merchant from Certaldo and a man of some prominence in Florence, had gone into business in Paris although he soon abandoned Boccaccio’s mother and returned to Florence where he sent Boccaccio to school until he was ten and then took him into business. In 1327 Giovanni was sent to Naples to study law, but he gave himself up almost entirely to literature, and became intimately acquainted with some of the most prominent men and women of the court of Anjou.
In 1340 ha came back to Florence and on the death of his father in 1348, he became the guardian of a younger brother. He held certain public offices in Florence and was entrusted with diplomatic missions to Padua, the Romagna, Avignon, and elsewhere. After 1350 began his friendship with Petrarch, which lasted until the latter's death in 1374. In spite of his advanced age and the political dissensions in Florence which afflicted him sorely, in 1373 he began his course of lectures in Florence on the poems of Dante. He died two years later at his ancestral home in Certaldo.
Boccaccio's works include the "Filocolo", his first work written in about 1340, the "Ameto", "Amorosa Visione", the "Teseide", probably of the year 1341, is the first artistic work in ottava rima. The "Ninfale Fiesolano", a short poem in ottava rima, is the best, in style and invention, of the minor works of Boccaccio. The "Vita di Dante" (about 1364), based chiefly on information furnished by contemporaries of Dante, remains one of the best lives of the poet.
The book with which Boccaccio's name is inseparably linked is the "Decameron", which was finished in 1353, but part of which had probably been written before the Black Death reached its height in 1348. The "Decameron" opens with a masterly description of the terrors of the pest, and we are then introduced to a gay company of seven ladies and three young men who have come together at a villa outside Naples to while away the time and to escape the epidemic. Each in turn presides for a day over the company and on each of the ten days each of the company tells a story, so that at the end one hundred stories have been told.

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Famous people of Florence: Filippo BrunelleschiFILIPPO BRUNELLESCHI

Brunelleschi was born in Florence in 1377 and received his early training as an artisan in silver and gold. In 1401 he entered, and lost to Ghiberti, the famous design competition for the bronze doors of the Florence Baptistery. He then turned to architecture and in 1418 received the commission to execute the dome of the unfinished Gothic Cathedral of Florence, also known as the Duomo. The dome, a great innovation both artistically and technically, consists of two octagonal vaults, one inside the other. Its shape was dictated by its structural needs—one of the first examples of architectural functionalism. This was the first time that a dome created the same strong effect on the exterior as it did on the interior. In other buildings in Florence, such as the Medici Church of San Lorenzo and the "Spedale degli Innocenti", Brunelleschi devised an austere, geometric style inspired by ancient Rome. Brunelleschi's style of “wall architecture,” with its flat facades, set the tone for many of the later buildings of the Florentine Renaissance.
Later in his career, notably in the unfinished Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the Basilica of Santo Spirito, and the Pazzi Chapel, he moved away from this linear, geometric style to a somewhat more sculptural, rhythmic style. This style, with its expressive interplay of solids and voids, was the first step toward an architecture that led eventually to the baroque.
Brunelleschi was also an important innovator in other areas. Along with the painter Masaccio, he was one of the first Renaissance masters to rediscover the laws of scientific perspective. He executed two perspective paintings (now lost), probably between 1415 and 1420, and he is also credited with having painted the architectural background in one of Masaccio's early works. His influence on his contemporaries and immediate followers was very strong and has been felt even in the 20th century, when modern architects came to revere him as the first great exponent of rational architecture. Brunelleschi died in Florence in 1446.
His revival of classical forms and his championing of an architecture based on mathematics, proportion, and perspective make him a key artistic figure in the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern era.

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Famous people of Florence: CimabueCENNI DI PEPO, ALIAS "PIETRO CIMABUE"

Florentine painter, born 1240; died after 1301; the legendary founder of Italian painting and reputed master of Giotto. According to Vasari some Greeks who had settled in Florence were Cimabue’s masters, but he soon surpassed them. When he completed his famous "Madonna", the people bore it in triumph to Santa Maria Novella, with such jubilation that the area where the painter lived was afterwards called the Borgo Allegri.
All this has since been proved untrue, and is attributed to the zeal of Vasari, the Italian historian of art, for the glory of Florence, his native city. It needed all the patience of the modern critic to right these wrongs. It is now established that the famous "Madonna" of Santa Maria NovelIa, called the "Madonna Ruccellai", is the work of Siena Duccio di Buoninsegna, who painted it in 1285 and is proved by the discovery of a contract preserved in the records of Florence. Also, it has been discovered that the triumphal procession to which Vasari refers in his account of Cimabue was held not in Florence, but in Siena, in honour of another masterpiece of this same Duccio, the great Maestà, or "Madonna of Majesty", which may now be seen at the Opera del Duomo in Siena.
Therefore it can be seen that all the elements of Cimabue’s biography are untrue. Duccio was forgotten, and his acheivements remained attached to the name of Cimabue, which explains his mention in a verse of Dante’s, which preserved the name of Cimabue for posterity. There was nothing more to do but create a biography and a list of works and let legend do the rest.
However, it can be seen from Dante’s verses that Cimabue was a renowned master in his time. A recently discovered text tells us that Cimabove, pictore de Florencia, resided at Rome in 1272. In 1301 he received ten "livres" from the Opera del Duomo of Pisa for "St. John the Baptist" in mosaic, which accompanies the "Christ" in the cathedral. Here our certitude ends. Aside from the "St. John" of Pisa, a mosaic which has been much repaired, we have not a single work of Cimabue. Some critics ascribe several paintings to him, but it rnust be admitted that in the absence of documents these surmises were without ground.

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Famous people of Florence: Leonardo da VinciLEONARDO DA VINCI

Born on April 15, 1452, in Vinci, just outside Florence, Leonardo was the illegitimate son of a 25-year-old notary, Ser Piero, and a peasant girl, Caterina. Growing up in his father's Vinci home, Leonardo had access to scholarly texts and was also exposed to Vinci's longstanding painting tradition, and when he was about 15 his father apprenticed him to the renowned workshop of Andrea del Verrochio in Florence, where he was an apprentice until 1477 when he set up a shingle for himself.
In search of new challenges and money, he entered the service of the Duke of Milan in 1482, abandoning his first commission in Florence, "The Adoration of the Magi". He spent 17 years in Milan, leaving only after Duke Ludovico Sforza's fall from power in 1499. It was during these years that Leonardo reached new heights of scientific and artistic achievement, painting and sculpting and designing elaborate court festivals and designing weapons, buildings and machinery. His studies from this period contain designs for advanced weapons, including a tank and other war vehicles, various combat devices, and submarines. Also during this period, Leonardo produced his first anatomical studies.
After the invasion by the French and Ludovico Sforza's fall from power in 1499, Leonardo was left to search for a new patron and over the next 16 years, Leonardo worked and traveled throughout Italy for a number of employers. About 1503, Leonardo reportedly began work on the "Mona Lisa".
From 1513 to 1516, he worked in Rome, maintaining a workshop and undertaking a variety of projects for the Pope. He continued his studies of human anatomy and physiology, but the Pope forbade him from dissecting cadavers.
Following the death of his patron Giuliano de' Medici in March 1516, he was offered the title of Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect of the King by Francis I in France. Although suffering from a paralysis of the right hand, Leonardo was still able to draw and teach. He produced studies for the Virgin Mary from "The Virgin and Child with St. Anne", studies of cats, horses, dragons, St. George, anatomical studies, studies on the nature of water, drawings of the Deluge, and of various machines.
Leonardo died on May 2, 1519 in Cloux, France. Legend has it that King Francis was at his side when he died, cradling Leonardo's head in his arms.

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Famous people of Florence: Michelangelo BuonarrotiMICHELANGELO BUONARROTI

Michelangelo Buonarroti was born on March 6, 1475 in Caprese, Italy. At the age of 13, he was apprenticed to Domenico Ghirlandaio, from whom he learned the technique of fresco; he would use this technique many years later in his work in the Sistine Chapel in Rome. At the age of fifteen, Michelangelo began to spend time in the home and gardens of Lorenzo de' Medici, where he studied sculpture under Bertoldo di Giovanni. Michelangelo was to be a protégé of the Medici family for the rest of his life, even when he fought against them during the famous siege of Florence in 1530.
It was during this time that he completed the Madonna of the Stairs and the Battle of the Centaurs. Due to the political climate in Florence Michelangelo left the city, and went to Rome where he carved the Bacchus and then the Pietà, which is in St. Peter's basilica in Rome.
Michelangelo returned to Florence where he began work on the David. Called the "Giant" by his fellow Florentines, this statue was completed in 1504 and can now be found in the Accademia gallery in Florence. During this same time period, Michelangelo produced several Madonnas; including the painting the Holy Family, a statue of the Madonna and Child and two marble reliefs, the Taddei tondo and the Pitti tondo.
Michelangelo was called to Rome by Pope Julius II to create a tomb for him which was to contain forty lifesize figures, an endeavor that was never fully realized as in 1508, Michelangelo began work on the Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes. Following Julius' death in 1513, he worked for Pope Leo X, Lorenzo de' Medici's son. At the Medici family's parish church, San Lorenzo, Michelangelo created tombs for Giuliano and Lorenzo de' Medici II and designed the Laurentian library, an annex to San Lorenzo.
In 1534, Michelangelo left Florence for Rome, where he was to spend the remainder of his life. He returned to the Sistine Chapel where he created the Last Judgment on the end wall and designed the dome for St. Peter's and the Capitoline Square. His last paintings were the frescoes of the Conversion of St. Paul and the Crucifixion of St. Peter in the Pauline Chapel in the Vatican. Michelangelo died on February 18, 1564.

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