Leon Battista Alberti was born in Genova in 1404.
He studied in Padua and Bologna, where in 1428 he was awarded a degree in canonic law. He lived in Florence and in Rome for the rest of his life. Other than an architect he was also a writer, philosopher and poet and studied the theory of different types of art. He wrote many treatises including Della Pittura (written in about 1436) and De Re Aedificatoria, written between 1450 and 1472, and the De Statua written in about 1464.
Leon Battista Alberti’s beauty ideal is the search for harmony in proportions, for proportion in shape in human beings.
His considerable culture earned him many invitations from the most important courts of the XV century. In Ferrara he designed the Horse Arch (which supports the statue of Nicolò III d’Este on horseback) for the Estense family; he designed the bell tower of the city’s cathedral as well. In Rome Pope Nicolò V commissioned a new urbanplan for the city and the restoration of S. Maria Maggiore, S. Stefano Rotondo, S. Teodoro.
He designed the new façade for the gothic church of S. Francesco a Rimini in 1450 for Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta. The church became the Tempio Malatestiano (a temple for the Malatesta family) and aroused the anger of Pope Pius II who said it "was filled with so many pagan works it does not look like a Christian temple but resembles a temple of demon worshippers".
Inside, the building has one nave and side chapels. Outside, the unfinished façade is made up of three arches divided by semi-columns. The middle semi-column is set on the door’s gable andthe side ones were supposed to be set over the graves of Sigismondo Malatesta and his wife (who are buried inside).
In Florence Alberti built, for the merchant Giovanni Rucellai, a building which would become a model for many lords’ homes in the Renaissance. The façade is made up of smooth ashlars in overlapping orders. Vertically it is dived by lisenes and horizontally by frames marking the internal floors. Rucellai commissioned other works: the Chapel of St Pancras and the completion of the facade of Santa Maria Novella. On this church he used polychromatic marble and followed a linear and clear design.
He designed the churches of St Sebastian (central plan) and of St Andrew (longitudinal plan) for the Gonzaga family in Mantua.
Leon Battista Alberti died in Rome in 1472.