Pleasure, the Will, and the Genesis of Architecture in Filarete’s Libro Architettonico, by Jonathan Powers

Around 1462, the Florentine sculptor and architect Antonio di Pietro Averlino, known as Filarete,” composed his curious Libro architettonico. Part craft treatise, part chivalric epic, part courtly dialogue, and part utopian fantasy, Filarete’s book relates a number of interrelated fictional narratives, the most important of which describes the construction from scratch of an ideal Renaissance city and its port.

Early in his narrative, Filarete claims that “[the act of] building is nothing if not a voluptuous pleasure, as when a man is in love” (Non è altro lo edificare se none un piacere voluntario, come quando l’uomo è inamorato). Filarete’s Libro concerns an unnamed Lord and his court architect, neither of which engages in anything like the physical act of building during the narrative. Filarete’s use of the Italian adjective voluntario, however, which I have translated as “voluptuous,” signals that crucial nexus of ideas can be traced through philological connection between pleasure, desire, and the will. Sure enough, later in his narrative, Filarete suggests a figuration of “Reason and Will” (la Ragione e la Voluntà) that will honor the Lord. Place just after a discussion of how to depict the canonical virtues (such as justice and prudence), Filarete’s canonization of Reason and Will—ordinarily understood at the time as faculties of soul.

This paper attempts to weave together a reading of the Aristotelian faculty psychology operant during the Renaissance with the philological clues left in Filarete’s text in order to develop a coherent reading of Filarete’s Libro that opens up the larger question of the relationship between making and the arts, pleasure, and the will (desire).

Jonathan Powers, McGill University, CA

Harvard Citation Guide: Powers, J. (2012) Pleasure, the Will, and the Genesis of Architecture in Filarete’s Libro Architettonico, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 06 May 2012, Available at: [Accessed: 01 June 2012].

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