Friday, June 30, 2006

Book Review: "Brunelleschi's Dome"

Ross King's fictional works (Ex-Libris, Domino) are among my favorites, so I figured I should finally try some of his non-fiction as well. Brunelleschi's Dome focuses on architect Filippo Brunelleschi and the design/construction of the massive dome over the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence, Italy. The scope of this achievement is remarkable; what Brunelleschi was charged with doing seems prohibitively difficult even today, let along in the fifteenth century.

In the tradition of Dava Sobel, Simon Winchester and others writing somewhat "popular" histories, King's work is without copious notes, and there are perhaps some conclusions drawn here that aren't based firmly in existing evidence (mainly for dramatic effect, I think). On the whole, however, King does quite a nice job of describing the decades-long process of making Brunelleschi's plans for the dome a reality - from the obvious logistical hurdles that had to be overcome in order to obtain the necessary materials (and then haul multi-ton slabs of stone hundreds of feet into the air and get them situated just so), to the political manuevering and beyond.

I don't mind recommending this book, and look forward to reading King's other non-fiction.

1 comment:

georgekaplan said...

I attended a talk King gave a couple of years ago on Michaelangelo & the Pope's Ceiling at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville. Very entertaining - even had some slides. Reminded me of an old history professor who augmented somewhat dry material about 19th c. Europe with asides about popular culture, art, literature, etc.