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Anecdotes Of Bramante Da Urbino (1444-1514)

( Originally Published 1915 )



This great master was born in Urbino about 1444, his parents being very poor. In his childhood he was taught to read and write, and was early devoted to drawing and the art of painting. Arithmetic became his favorite study.

He soon developed a love for architectural study and perspective, and, in order to learn more he departed to Lombardy, going from one city to another and working as best he could. He reached Milan where he gave much time to the study of the great Gothic cathedral there. From there he went to Rome. He had some money with him, and it was his desire to spend it very slowly, that he might have leisure to make accurate measurements of the ancient buildings. In solitude and deep thought he carried this out to completion, measuring all the buildings of antiquity situated in Rome and all the surrounding country, going as far as Naples in his quest.

Here he became known to the cardinal of Naples, who began to favor his progress. For the cardinal he built a cloister, which was the beginning of his reputation and success. As we see in most lives, the hard thing was to get a start. Upon this beginning other commissions followed, and Bramante was invited to consult with eminent architects regarding the building of a new palace. All his works proving successful, he soon had much credit in Rome, and distinguished personages employed him in important undertakings.

He did much at Bologna also, making ground plans for numerous edifices, which were very fine in proportion. He imparted instruction in the rules of architecture to Raphael, who afterwards painted his portrait into one of his famous works, " The School of Athens."

But his greatest work was on St. Peter's. He laid the foundations of this stupendous church, and continued his labors upon it until his own death. He raised the building to the height of the cornice, but after his death the plans were much altered by Raphael and Antonio san Gallo, and afterwards by Michaelangelo. Michaelangelo himself remarked that he was only executing Bramante's design, and that it was the master who founded a great edifice who ought to be regarded as its author.

Vasari says that Bramante was a person of most cheerful and amiable disposition, delighting to do everything whereby he could bring benefit to his neighbor. He delighted greatly in poetry and music, practising upon the lyre and occasionally composing a poem. The event of his death in the year 1514 at the age of 70 years caused the erection of St. Peter's to be suspended for several years. He was entombed in St. Peter's. His death was a loss to architecture for his investigations led to the discovery of many useful inventions that enriched the art. He was to the second part of the Renaissance what Brunelleschi had been to the first and he rendered the road to the true science of architecture much easier to all who came after him.

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