Spanish Chapel at Santa Maria Novella


Creator:  Andrea di Bonaiuto
Title:  Allegory of the Active and Triumphant Church
Date:  c. 1365
Material:  Fresco
Repository:  Spanish Chapel at Santa Maria Novella Cathedral, Florence

This fresco, painted in 1365 and which covers an entire wall of the Spanish Chapel of the church of Santa Maria Novella, depicts an image of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore before its dome had been designed and built by Brunelleschi.  Thus, it represents the artist’s vision of the completed dome, rather than the architect’s actual plans. (Macadam, 188)

There are many differences between this image and the actual dome of the cathedral.  Notably, the dome depicted in this painting is pink, rather than the brick red of the completed cathedral.  Then too, there is no drum shown in this painting, as that was an element that Brunelleschi designed and constructed in his finished dome.  (Fanelli and Fanelli, 11)  The ribs of the dome in this image are quite differently interpreted than the actual marble ribs of the completed dome by Brunelleschi.  However, one can see the familiar conical shape of the dome over the framework of the existing cathedral, which would be the already-imposed limitations that faced Brunelleschi as he began to design the new dome.  Because of a cathedral which had already been built by the time Brunelleschi had submitted his proposals for the dome, he had to devise ingenious strategies to work within an already proscribed footprint for the dome.

Works Cited:

Fanelli, G and Fanelli, M. Brunelleschi’s Cupola, Past and Present of an Architectural Masterpiece.  Mandragora s.r.l. 2004
Macadam, A. Blue Guide Florence. Somerset Books. 2011

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