The ideal city

In recent years, some critics have attributed to the great architect Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) a series of three perspective tables, which the artist may have created by meditating on the model of the ideal city. These ideal cities, now preserved in Urbino, Baltimore and Berlin, represent complex architectural perspectives characterized by rigorous linear layouts that meticulously describe every architectural detail. The perfection of shapes and volumes reveals the work not of a painter but of an architect like Alberti, who according to Vasari was very good at drawing city perspectives “without the figures”.

Leon Battista Alberti (attributed to), Ideal City, c. 1450 Tempera on wood, 80.33 x 219.8 cm. Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery
Wonderful painted architectures

In the tables of Baltimore and Berlin it is easy to recognize some of the real places of ancient and modern Rome, that is, fifteenth century. In the Baltimore panel, in particular, the Roman Forum is ideally restored and refurbished, as suggested by the presence of the Colosseum in the background alongside generic Renaissance architecture and large churches covered with two-tone marble.

Also in the ideal city of Berlin, the setting is Roman, with the massive Castel Sant’Angelo and the course of the Tiber in the background

Leon Battista Alberti (attributed to), Ideal City, c. 1450 Berlin, Staatliche Museen

The Urbino table instead presents a vast urban space paved with marble and the effect is that of a large square, geometrically defined by two octagonal wells, placed on the sides

Ideal City by Leon Battista Alberti

n the center dominates a large circular pseudoperipteral building (that is to say with semi-columns leaning against the cell wall), certainly a public building and almost certainly with religious nature, while in the background a church can be glimpsed

The ideal City of Urbino by Leon Battista Alberti
Leon Battista Alberti, Ideal City of Urbino, 1450 ca. Particular.

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