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Brunelleschi's dome : how a Renaissance genius reinvented architecture
Ross King
Adult Nonfiction NA5621.F7 K56 2000

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From Publishers' Weekly:

Walker was the hardcover publisher of Dava Sobel's sleeper smash, Longitude, and Mark Kurlansky's steady-seller Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World. This brief, secondary source-based account is clearly aimed at the same lay science-cum-adventure readership. British novelist King (previously unpublished in the U.S.) compiles an elementary introduction to the story of how and why Renaissance Italian architect Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) designed and oversaw the construction of the enormous dome of Florence's Santa Maria del Fiore cathedralÄdesigning its curves so that they needed no supporting framework during construction: a major Renaissance architectural innovation. Illustrated with 26 b&w period prints, the book contains 19 chapters, some very brief. Although the result is fast moving and accessible, King overdoes the simplicity to the point that the book appears unwittingly as if it was intended for young adults. (Donatello, Leonardo and Michelangelo, for example, "took a dim view of marriage and women.") This book feels miles away from its actual characters, lacking the kind of dramatic flourish that would bring it fully to life. Despite direct quotes from letters and period accounts, the "would have," "may have" and "must have" sentences pile up. Still, the focus on the dome, its attendant social and architectural problems, and the solutions improvised by Brunelleschi provide enough inherent tension to carry readers along. (Oct. 23) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

From Library Journal:

British historical novelist King (Domino, Minerva; Ex Libris) brings his talent for colorful period re-creation to the story of the world's largest masonry dome, that of the cathedral in Florence, Italy. Filippo Brunelleschi's ingenious solution for erecting the enormous dome ranks among the outstanding accomplishments of the early Renaissance, stimulating among his contemporaries a new appreciation of classical architecture as well as inspiring a spirit of innovation. For King, the dome's story is a tumultuous saga of rich and poor, geniuses and journeymen, soldiers and ecclesiastics, all of whom bring to life the vivid tapestry of daily life in the first half of the 1400s. King has done his research, but where the historical record is vague he doesn't hesitate to deploy the speculative imagination of the novelist. Regarding the cathedral itself, he dwells on engineering minutiae, paying scant attention to design and aesthetics. Omitted is mention of Filippo's important designs for the cathedral's exedrae, perhaps because this episode lacks drama. For reference, public libraries need Peter Murray's Architecture of the Italian Renaissance (1975, o.p.) or Ludwig Heydenreich's Architecture in Italy, 1400-1500 (Yale Univ., 1995). Those that are looking for a simple "good read" in the mold of Dava Sobel's Longitude (LJ 8/96) would do well to acquire this page turner.DDavid Soltsz, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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