Brunelleschi life – A funny chap
Everybody considers Brunelleschi as a genius, the man who re-discovered linear perspective and started the Renaissance, but not many know about this episode of Brunelleschi life. Brunelleschi was brilliant, intelligent and enjoyed life. Coming from a rich family he never had financial problems. He loved to stay with friends, in particular Donatello, the sculptor, was one of his best friends, as well as Masaccio, the painter. The brigade of friends used to pull pranks, always organized by Brunelleschi himself. Today I want to tell you about one episode of Brunelleschi life, maybe helping you to understand Brunelleschi personality.
The novel of the “fat” carpenter
This is an incredible episode of Brunelleschi life, written by Antonio Manetti. The biography starts with this novel. Florence, 1409: Filippo Brunelleschi and his group of brilliant friends often used to have dinner together and stay chatting in front of the fireplace. Manetto di Jacopo Ammannatini, a brilliant carpenter, expert in creating tarsìe, was part of this group. His nickname was “il Grasso” (“the fat one”, you can imagine why). He didn’t want to go at one of these dinners, although his friends insisted, and of course he was the argument of the chat. His friends believed he didn’t want to go because he was strange, bizarre, and that letting him pay the next dinner was the right penalty. Brunelleschi though proposed another, much more elaborate prank: letting Manetto believe that he had turned into another person!
The next day, il Grasso went home in Piazza San Giovanni, close to the Duomo, but it was closed from inside. He heard himself speaking from inside the home (actually it was Brunelleschi imitating his voice). Then, Donatello met him and called him Matteo. The real family of Matteo (a wealthy man) contributed to the prank. Il grasso was arrested for a debt of Matteo, then released thanks to Matteo’r brothers who accommodated him in Matteo’s house. The vicar of Santa Felicita (Matteo’s parish church) went to comfort him. The prank continued for a while with the participation of many people, until il Grasso was convinced to have been transformed. At this point, Brunelleschi gave opium to il Grasso, and while he was sleeping, he was carried back to his home.
When he woke up, Matteo’s brothers knocked at his door, acting as if they had never met him, but they told him a story: they had a brother, Matteo, that one day escaped because he believed he was il Grasso. Later Brunelleschi and Donatello confirmed this story, and the real Matteo also confirmed, adding sone detail: he said he fell asleep, dreaming of being a carpenter, having the impression of being turned into another person.
The carpenter was very confused until the prank was revealed. In shame, with all the city laughing at him, il Grasso decided to leave Florence and follow the troops of Pippo Spano, a famous Captain, in Hungary. Looks like il Grasso became wealthy and appreciated in Hungary.
Would you expect this from Brunelleschi? Imagine how many people were part of this prank: Matteo and his brothers, the policemen who arrested il Grasso, the vicar of Santa Felicita, Brunelleschi, Donatello and many more. The novel has been used, revised and corrected, in some Italian films, in particular “Il Marchese del Grillo” by Mario Monicelli.