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Reviewed by:
  • Leon Battista Alberti: Teorico delle arti e gli impegni civili del "De re aedificatoria"
  • Christine Smith
Arturo Calzona, Francesco Paolo Fiore, and Cesare Vasoli, eds. Leon Battista Alberti: Teorico delle arti e gli impegni civili del "De re aedificatoria". 2 vols. Centro Studi L. B. Alberti Ingenium 9. Florence: Leo S. Olschki, 2007. xvi + 1028 pp. + 162 b/w pls. index. illus. tbls. €98. ISBN: 978-88-222-5605-8.

Scholarly interest in Leon Battista Alberti has, in the past two decades, been prodigious: the foundation of the Centro di Studi sul Classicismo in 1992, with [End Page 1254] its project to publish critical editions of all Alberti's works; and after the international congress in Paris in 1995 of the Societé International Leon Battista Alberti (SILBA), which plans the publication of all his works and publishes the annual Albertiana, and was followed in 1998 by the establishment of the Fondazione Centro Studi Leon Battista Alberti in Mantua. The output of congresses and publications organized and sponsored by these three centers over the past ten years is substantial, yet a complete view of Alberti studies today would also need to include the exceptionally large number of books and articles on him produced independently in the same period. Continuously updated bibliographies of this extraordinary outpouring are available on the web through Michel Paoli's site ( and a link on SILBA's site (http:// The Mantuan center, looking forward to the sixth centennial of Alberti's birth (18 February 1404), organized no less than eight congresses and three exhibitions that took place between 2002 and 2006: the fruit of two of the eight congresses, almost 1,000 pages of scholarly work, make up the volumes reviewed here.

These two congresses were conceived by Alberto Tenenti in collaboration with Arturo Calzone, Francesco Paolo Fiore, and Cesare Vasoli and developed with other distinguished members of a scholarly committee. Tenenti died in 2002; the remaining three organizers brought the work to publication and dedicated it to his memory. The first of the congresses, titled "Gli impegni civili del De re aedificatoria," took place in Mantua in 2002. It sought a comprehensive approach to Alberti's treatise, considering it not only as a work on architecture but also as a vision of the buildings' destinations, and of the society that would produce, receive, and value them. Thus papers both on the forms and techniques of buildings and on their functions and social purposes were solicited. The second congress, on Alberti as theorist of the arts, took place the following year. It proposed to examine the relations between painting, sculpture, and architecture in Alberti's works; explore textual, iconographic, and built evidence relevant to the principles of the arts; and, more generally, to shed light on Alberti's modes of thought and intellectual procedures. The programs for both congresses are given in the front matter of volume 1. In preparing the papers for publication, however, it was decided that given the essential unity of the material and the opportunity to present divergent views in a single work, it would be better not to retain this original order of presentation. More than a record of the congresses' proceedings, the publication is a compendium of essays on and around their themes. Does any new image of Alberti emerge from the enormous amount of scholarly attention he has received, or are previous interpretations being confirmed and completed with new evidence? The forty-seven contributions in these volumes are a microcosm of where the topic is today.

The quality of the essays is uniformly excellent. This may itself reflect the intensity of Alberti studies: a great many fine scholars are, today, deeply engaged in research on Albertian topics and this, in turn, sets the bar rather high for those who wish to join the discourse. Indeed, not a few of the contributions display [End Page 1255] remarkable erudition. To give just one example, Stefano Borsi's study of Alberti's sources brings to bear an extraordinary knowledge of classical, biblical, and medieval literature on various Albertian writings. Like his, most of the essays are intertextual; confirming, correcting, and...


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pp. 1254-1257
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Archived 2009
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