The attribution has Filippo Brunelleschi and the Perspectives of Sleep contributed to making this fifteenth-century text the object of numerous philological studies, particularly because of its peculiar pluriredactional condition. It is significant that, in recent years, two different editions of the novella have been published one by Antonio Lanza in and the other by Paolo Procaccioli in Leaving aside the question of the philological inclination of Italian criticism, it is evident that the textual tradition of the novella demands an analysis of the variants.
The novella tells the story of a bejfa prank played by Filippo Brunelleschi on the woodcarver Matteo Ammannatini, also known as il Grasso the fat man. All three versions of the novella insist on the appar- ent impossibility of carrying out the bejfa proposed by Brunelleschi: that is, to convince Grasso that he has become a different person named Matteo. An impossible bejfa, but one nevertheless designed and executed thanks to the ingenuity of the plan devised by Brunelleschi.
But Filippo, who was very good at such things, gave them so many clever, subtle reasons and arguments that he succeeded in convinc- ing them that it could be done" The interest aroused by the novella is due primarily to its display of Brunelleschi's skill at design, which is accompanied by an equal ability to complete the project as a constructed artefact. It is the same sort of fasci- nation which is mentioned in all of the biographical anecdotes told about Brunelleschi's activities as an architect, and in particular in those more directly related to the construction of the dome of the cathedral in Florence, itself considered an impossible feat.
The exceptional nature of the fifteenth-century artist, and of Brunelleschi in particular, seems to lie pre- cisely in his ability to force the impossible into the realm of the possible.
Am I like Calandrino, turned into someone else so quickly without realiz- ing it? Grasso, in other words, does not undergo the change of identity passively: he is not a simple spectator nor a Calandrino. Rather, he investigates his culture and his experience, searching for an explanation for what is happening to him and around him. In a significant scene, which takes place in the debtors' prison where he has been taken in place of Matteo, Grasso, convinced by now that he has really become Matteo, finds himself discussing his situation with a judge who happened to be in the same cell.
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After having explained his case to the judge, he concludes inquis- itively with these words: "Messere Did you ever come across anything like this? In as much as his vernac- ular culture proves to be inadequate. Grasso appeals to the judge's classical culture in order to find an explanation for his misadventures. Instead, it is very much dependant on the consequences and primar- ily the psychological consequences that those actions have for the desig- nated victim.
These will be even more intriguing in so far as the victim, rather than abandoning himself to the inevitable rationale of the events, tries nevertheless to control and comprehend them. In the first two versions of the novella, the vulgate and the Palatino text, the story ends rather quickly, once the bejfa has reached its conclu- sion. After managing, in the space of three days, to convince Grasso that he has become Matteo, Filippo Brunelleschi and his companions polish their work by putting in place the last details of the plan for the beffa.
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First, they give Grasso a potion to make him fall asleep, and this takes place at Matteo's house. Then, they take him to his own house; they put him in bed; go to his workshop and move every tool from its original place; final- ly they all go back to their own homes to sleep. The next morning Grasso, having regained possession of his identity but incapable of finding a rea- — 10 — Filippo Brunelleschi and the Perspectives of Sleep sonable explanation for the events of the day before, decides to leave Florence for good and to move to Hungary.
This is how the vulgate pre- sents the scene in which Filippo Brunelleschi and his friends take Grasso home from Matteo's house, and put him to bed I quote from the MS. BNF II. At the agreed time Filippo arrived with three friends and, on entering the room where [Grasso] was, and hearing him snore loudly, they picked him up and put him in a hamper along with all his clothes and brought him to his own house, where, as luck would have it, no one was home, since his mother had not yet returned from the country.
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Carrying him to his bed, they put him in it and placed his clothes where he usually put them when he went to bed. The meaning of the operation is, without any doubt, that of giving Grasso back his identity, through an exact adherence to his most personal habits "puosono i panni suoi dove li soleva porre" "they placed his clothes where he usually put them".
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They put him into bed and placed his clothes where he usually put them when he undressed. Manetti's version, on the other hand, presents a reading of this scene that is completely different. On entering the room where Grasso was, and hearing that he was sound asleep, they picked him up, put him in a hamper along with all his clothes, and car- ried him to his own house, where, as luck would have it, his mother had not yet returned from the country. They knew all this because they were keeping an eye on everything.
And they put him into bed, and placed his clothes where he usually put them. But they put his feet where he usually put his head [emphasis added]. Upon awakening, Grasso, in the vulgate and Palatino versions, redis- covers his identity precisely by recognizing the elements familiar to him; and his astonishment derives from the conflict between this identity and that which he experienced on the previous days — a conflict which is exemplified by his having gone to bed in Matteo's house and having awak- ened in his own bed.
Grasso slept all night without ever waking up. In the morning, awakening to the sound of the Angelus from Santa Maria del Fiore late in the morning, he recognized the sound of the bell and, opening his eyes, saw some chinks of light in the room. Recognizing [it] he saw that he was in his own house and, remembering — 12 — Filippo Brunelleschi and the Perspectives of Sleep everything that had happened, he was amazed, especially when he recalled the place where he had gone to bed the night before.
He said "God, help me. Grasses awakening is very different. The elements are apparently the same, but Grasses mental activ- ity is no longer characterized by a generic state of confusion. But next morning, awakening to the sound of the Angelus from Santa Maria del Fiore, when the effects of the potion had worn off and it was already daylight, he recognized the sound of the bell and, opening his eyes, saw some chinks of light in the room and realized that he was in his own house, and his heart was suddenly filled with great joy, for it seemed he had become Grasso again and was master of all his possessions, which he thought might be lost to him.
And now he almost wept, he was so beside himself with joy. Yet he was disturbed and amazed to find his head where he usually put his feet in the bed. And remembering the things that had happened, and where he had gone to sleep the night before, and where he was then, he suddenly fell into a reverie of uncertainty about whether he had been dreaming then or was dreaming now [emphasis added]. It takes place inside Grasso's mind and is played out on the basis of the confiision between dream and reality.
This is Manetti's essential contribution in terms of narrative inven- tion with respect to the tradition of the novella. This contribution affects not only the construction of the beffa but, significantly, the space in which — 13 — Lorenzo Bartoli it is to take place: from the streets of Florence, we are led inside Grassos own mind.
Indeed, in the conclusion to the novella, Manetti states that "la maggior parte delle cose da ridere erano state, come si dice, nella mente del Grasso" "most of the funny things had happened, so to speak, in Grasso's mind" This phrase, which is not found in the other ver- sions of the novella, confirms Manetti's particular focus on the psycholog- ical dimension of the story.
What must be stressed, in any case, is the insistence on the theme of dreams, introduced by Manetti to modify the tradition of the novella. Although, in fact, Grasso's meditations on dreams begin with the mem- ory of what happened on the previous days, it is nevertheless significant that those meditations are also suggested by a detail; namely, Grasso's posi- tion in bed which, in Manetti's version, becomes part of Brunelleschi's overall strategy for the execution of the beffa.
In short, it is not so extraordinary that Grasso should struggle to distinguish, in his own mind, between dream and reality; but rather that such ambiguity is born out of Brunelleschi's specific project. So much so, that Manetti, when introducing the character of Matteo, in the last part of — 14 — Filippo Brunelleschi and the Perspectives of Sleep the novella, insists precisely upon terms of dream and reality.
Such a narrative strategy requires, for its own logic, that Brunelleschi know exactly what is going through Grasses mind. He should know about Grasses uncertainty between dream and reality — a knowledge that the architect must have, since it was he who led Grasso's reasoning in that direction.
In Manetti's version of the novella, therefore, Brunelleschi is not just the designer of a bejfa by which Grasso is made to believe that he has become Matteo: he is also the maker of another bejfa, by which Grasso is made to believe that he has dreamt of becoming Matteo.
In Manetti's version of the story, then, the theme of dream acquires a highly significant role. It indicates, with precision, the limits of Grasso's interpretative ability, particularly in comparison with Brunelleschi's inge- nuity. Similar to the reference to classical antiquity in the episode with the judge, the appeal to the dream as an interpretative tool proves to be yet another sign of Grasso's intellectual weakness, the product of a pseudo-cul- ture that is refuted by Brunelleschi's that is Manetti's precise rationality, which in fact he can use to carry out his plan.
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At the heart of the narrative innovations introduced by Manetti to modify the development of the story of Brunelleschi and Grasso, various traditions converge. First of all, it should be noted that, in the classical tra- dition of writings on art, the appeal to the oneiric dimension as a key to accessing the realm of the artistic imagination is usually accompanied by some caution, or even skepticism. It should be noted that Pliny says that Parrhasius "usurpavit" literally usurped' his supremacy — that is, it was not granted to him — thus emphasizing the untenability of Parrhasius's point of view; being entirely subjective to the artist himself, it could not be verified.
This is a concept derived from the classical and mercantile traditions alike and is linked to the artistic culture of the fif- teenth century. Such an association is exemplified by Giannozzo's words in the third book of Leon Battista Alberti's Delia famiglia On the Family : Io quanto al tempo cerco adoperarlo bene, e studio di perderne mai nulla And to waste no part of such a precious thing, I have a rule that I always follow: never remain idle, I avoid sleep, and I do not lie down unless overcome by weariness.
The artistic world is necessarily linked to the civic and mercantile premises that underlie Giannozzo's reasoning.
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This can be verified, once again, by referring to Ghiberti's Commentarii. Sleep and dreams, therefore, on which Manetti insists in the final part of the novella, converge to underscore Brunelleschi's ingenuity and his intellectual superiority with respect to Grasso. And yet, what characterizes Brunelleschi's attitude in the novella is not so much his denial of an over- all validity to the oneiric dimension of artistic creation, that is, that of Pliny's Parrhasius.
Rather, his main contribution is to restrict such a dimension within the limits of the scientific tradition of optics. Fifi:eenth-century time is that of late nights, as can be seen by the example of Paolo Uccello. English translation: "To make clear my exposition in writing this brief commen- tary on painting, I will take first from the mathematicians those things with which my subject is concerned.
John R. Spencer, Poche cose si sono fatte d'inportanza nella nostra terra non sieno state disegnate et ordinate di mia mano" The edition is based on MS. To those who wish to make large figures that go beyond the natural form, I've given the rules for drawing them with per- fect measure. On Brunelleschi's relationship with Florentine humanist culture of the first half of the fifteenth cen- tury, see Tanturli's essay. The novella was recently translated into English and included in the volume by Lauro Martines. Page references are to the English translation of the novella in the volume by Martines.
Compare this novella to Plautus's Amphitruo, which seems to be its most direct narrative predecessor. Michelangelo , poem No. Libro 3. The following is the extended quota- tion of this passage from Opere volgari, ; English translation by Watkins: "Dissi io la masserizia sta in bene adoperare le cose non manco che in conservalle, vero? Adunque io quanto al tempo cerco adoperarlo bene, e studio di perderne mai nulla.
My plan, therefore, is to make as good use as possible of time, and never to waste any. I use time as much as possible on praiseworthy pursuits.
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