(b. 1377, Firenze, d. 1446, Firenze)

Interior view

Palazzo di Parte Guelfa, Florence

This building, Brunelleschi's only extant palazzo, was designed as the assembly hall for the Guelph party, built above a vaulted lower storey to the east of the original palazzo constructed in the years after 1422. Such buildings, like the institutions they served, were modelled on those of the Florentine republic: the Palazzo del Podestà (now the Bargello) and the Palazzo della Signoria (now Palazzo Vecchio). Accommodation was typically centred on a large council hall flanked by administrative offices, all at first-floor level above a vaulted ground floor and accessible by narrow stairs, wholly or partly external for reasons of security. At the height of Guelph power in the 13th century, modest headquarters had sufficed the party; as it declined in influence, however, a building programme was instituted to double the size of its building in a final bid for consolidation of its power.

Brunelleschi's scheme for the assembly hall over the vaulted ground storey, to be joined to the original palazzo by a link block on the Via delle Terme, may have originally been made in the mid-1420s when the new connecting wing was being built. Work was interrupted during the wars with Milan and Lucca (1426–31) and the subsequent factional in-fighting. It was probably when work resumed in 1442 that Brunelleschi intervened with a project for a substantially larger hall in the new east wing, a project that meshed badly with the connecting wing and somewhat overwhelmed the ground-floor structure, but which assured much greater visibility (and hence prestige) for the building from the street.

The rectangular hall is articulated on the long (east) wall by four tall, round-headed windows with profiled all'antica surrounds, each surmounted by a large circular window; two such units are also featured on the short (south) end. None of the internal décor was completed in Brunelleschi's lifetime, but the intention was to support the ceiling (probably coffered) on a classical entablature borne on pilasters between the windows. The existing interior pilasters were executed before c. 1456 by Maso di Bartolommeo, an associate of Michelozzo.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.