Donato di Pascuccio di Antonio known as Bramante was one the most important architects, painters and writers of treatises of the Italian Renaissance. He completed his studies in the very sophisticated court of Montefeltro in Urbino and he became part of the circle of Piero della Francesca, as a perspective painter and architect. Thanks to his trip to Mantua, he certainly knew Mantegna’s Camera Picta, which had a great influence on him and he used similar perspective views and illusionistic effects throughout his whole career. His first works were documented in Lombardy; in Bergamo he painted frescoes with the figures of Philosophers and architectural perspectives on the façade of Palazzo del Podestà, and in Milan, where he directed the reconstruction work of Santa Maria at San Satiro, which started in 1478.
Bramante spent the last decades of the 15th century at the Sforza court, where he worked as an engineer, architect, a set designer for various court celebrations, exchanging continuously ideas with Leonardo da Vinci, who was also in Milan at the same time. There he designed the rectory and the cloisters of Sant’Ambrogio, he intervened the discussion regarding the tiburio of the Milan Cathedral, he worked on the Pavia Cathedral and for the city of Vigevano, where made a magnificent urbanistic reorganization of the central square. During these years the only panel painting attributed to him was the Christ on the Column of Pinacoteca di Brera (1490) which came from the Chiaravalle Abbey for a deposit in 1915. His last great work of his period in Milan was the reorganization of the tribune of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where he adopted the same solution he later used for the Fabric of St. Peter.
After the fall of Ludovico il Moro in 1499, Donato moved to Rome. The studies of classical architecture mixed with the architectural experiences during his Lombard period were the foundations for his Roman working sites. In 1500 he began working on the cloister of Santa Maria della Pace and two years later, in 1502, the temple of San Pietro in Montorio, which was a perfect example of Bramante’s architectural experiments and the mixture of styles deriving from his studies and education, starting from the court of Montefeltro up to the classicism of the city of Rome. After the papal election of Julius II in October 1503, the master was entrusted with the superintendence for all papal constructions (Restauratio Urbis by Julius II). He designed the Belvedere courtyard that connects the Vatican palaces with the villa of Innocent VIII and he began to work on the new St. Peter with a central plan. Both construction sites remain uncompleted (Julius II dies in 1513 and Bramante interrupts the work) and they underwent numerous changes over the years, whilst never losing the handprint and the brilliant designs of the multi-talented artist.
Preceded only by Leon Battista Alberti, Bramante was recalled as a great writer of treatises and admired for his inventions, which deeply changed the architecture of his time. His followers were among the greatest artists of all time: Raphael, Baldassare Peruzzi, Jacopo Sansovino and Antonio da Sangallo the Younger.
Donato Bramante died in Rome in poor health on 11 April 1514.