The “Ideal City” in three Renaissance paintings

The ideal city is one of the works that best represent the Italian Renaissance, the historical period between 1400 and 1500. Below we present three paintings of the time (in the cover together through Photoshop to show the mutual affinity) intent on depict the utopia of a perfect city.

Similar but different, are inspired by the concept of Copy et Varietas theorized by Leon Battista Alberti. All they want to act as the definitive vision of the idealized concept of ideal city – they are represented by the culture of the time. When today we look at the city of the future, represented by contemporary architects, or when we think of those proposed during the twentieth century, surely we are facing a completely different idea … Many things have changed after all. 


The Ideal City

ideal city

The most famous is the ideal city commissioned by the court of Federico da Montefeltro – The artist is still unknown, but one can imagine that the author was one of the painters who at the time revolved around the Duke of Montefeltro; or Piero della Francesca, Luciano Laurana, Francesco di Giorgio Martini. What distinguishes the work is the perspective view and the general order of the painting as well as what it represents. Ever since Plato has begun to talk about urban utopias or ideal cities, here we see probably the best depictions of these in the history of man. I do not mean that these are the final model for cities of the future, but the representation technique detaches all the great architects newer.

The style prospective frames a perfect city, orderly, accurate in every detail; from decorations of the windows to the pavement. At the center of the square there seems to be a great Baptistery, around which is distributed the large public space. In this context, we note the total absence of persons

The Ideal City of Baltimora

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Another View of the ideal city is located today at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Even this painting was born from the court of Urbino and is implicitly recognized by one of the three authors mentioned above. Here you have a perspective view, developed horizontally as in the other three paintings, where the symmetry is given by the two buildings side – different only thanks to the decorations – while the central part of the painting, is dominated by three classical monuments: a amphitheater, a triumphal arch trifornice and a building with a central plan, (probably a reworking of the Baptistery of Florence).

Here too, the square itself is the element that holds together the ideal city. In this case is lowered by a few steps, and contains in its interior four columns with statues on the top and a central fountain.

Contrary to the other two paintings, there appear some human figures that animate the city. But these were painted in the finished picture, over the final layer of the rest of the picture, so maybe they are not original.

The Ideal City of Berlin

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In Berlin, Gemäldegalerie is located  a third ideal city. Although the subject, technique and style of the prospective are the same with the previous two, this board is different in many aspects. Among the most important we note that the view is captured from a loggia, from which jut deep into the lines of perspective highlighted by the design of the pavement, which leads the eye towards the harbor. In this context it is useful to focus on the intent that the author wanted to give respect to the proximity between city and port.

The ideal city is represented here jointly with the marine business, in which the symmetry of the large central square serves as a connection, ideal and physical, between the urban and the port.

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