ROSSELLINO, Bernardo
(b. 1409, Settignano, d. 1464, Firenze)

Tomb of Leonardo Bruni

1444-47
Marble, height 610 cm
Santa Croce, Florence

Three sculptors who dominated marble sculture in Florence until 1470 were born in Settignano, a hill town outside Florence famous for its quarries and stonecutters: Bernardo Rossellino, his younger brother Antonio and a friend, Desiderio.

The most important sculptural commission of Bernardo Rossellino was the tomb of Leonardo Bruni in Santa Croce. The humanist chancellor of Florence, who died in 1444, had requested a simple tomb slab. Although the monument is unducumented, a contemporary description of the funeral clarifies much of the iconography. The effigy of this quintessential Renaissance man lies in state as in his funeral. He holds his book (History of the Florentine People) and wears a laurel crown. The tablet on the sarcophagus contains Bruni's Latin epitaph, composed by his successor.

The harmonious integration of the figures in an architectural frame established this monument as the model for sepulchral monuments for the remainder of the century. The tomb's format recalls the triumphal arch, a fitting motif for a Christian humanist. However, its message is the triumph not so much of salvation as of the individual and his everlasting fame. This is stressed by the crowning element, Bruni's coat-of-arms, which recalls the Marzocco, stamping the monument with a loftier republicanism.