Artibus et Historiae no. 19 (X)

1989, ISSN 0391-9064

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JAMES BECK - Leon Battista Alberti and the «Night Sky» at San Lorenzo

Alberti was a uomo universale but his key talent was literary. He should be approached above all as a humanist whose principal vehicle of expression was the written word. As a painter and architect he was influenced by his broad background in the classics rather than by practical experience. Although no painting can be attributed to Alberti with any degree of certainty, the "night sky" cupola in the sacristy in Florence's San Lorenzo seems to have been painted by him, albeit most likely together with someone else. This conclusion may be arrived at through process of elimination, and is confirmed by evidence in the painting of Alberti's literary, astrological and historical background, as well as apparent personal references to the artist in the work - in part in rebus form. A tentative attribution for the second artist would be del Ponte. The same pattern of reasoning may be applied to the mural in the Palazzo Rucellai, which also suggests Alberti's authorship.

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