I'm trying to track down an exact quote which I remember very vaguely, having read it over ten years ago in some art or art history book whose title I no longer recall. I think the quote is attributed to a Renaissance painter or architect who, upon first glimpsing from afar some architectural wonder of that time (I want to say the dome of Bruneleschi's Florence Cathedral?) said something to the effect of "Bruneleschi, I cannot imitate you, but I will surpass you nonetheless".

Some or all of these names may be off, but that is the general gist of the quote. This is all I got. I've been trying to track this down for hours.

  • I can find only a "legendary" reference referring to a letter from Michelangelo Buonarroti to the father before leaving for Rome to work on St.Peter Cathedral and referring to Brunelelschi's Florence Dome: " "Vo' a Roma a far la su' sorella, più grande sì, ma non più bella". English: "I'm going to Rome to build her sister, much greater but nevertheless not more beautiful." May 26, 2021 at 13:23

1 Answer 1


I found it!

When Michelangelo was wending his way from Florence to Rome, to assume the charge of finishing St Peter s church, his servant related that on reaching the summit of the Apennines near Poggibonsi he turned his horse and sat gazing long and intently upon the dome of Brunelleschi, the giant cupola of the Florentine cathedral. After some time he was heard to growl, "Better than thee, I cannot; like thee, I will not!" The result was the dome of St. Peter's.

The source was Form and function: remarks on art, design, and architecture Greenough, Horatio.

Whether Michelangelo actually said this is another matter...

(Come to think of it, misremembering a quotations from some obscure source like I did and then passing it on as authentic is probably how these bogus attributions come about in the first place!)

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    Vassari has this zinger: "It happened, while Michelagnolo was raising the cupola, that he was asked by some friends, "Should you not make your lantern very different from that of Filippo Brunelleschi?" And he answered them, "Different it can be made with ease, but better, no." May 26, 2021 at 14:29
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    Thnaks to @kimchilover - Vasari, Life of Michelangelo: "Accadde mentre che e' la voltava, che fu domandato da alcuni suoi amici: “Michelagnolo, voi doverete molto variare la vostra lanterna da quella di Filippo Bruneleschi”, et egli rispose loro: “Egli si può ben variare, ma migliorare no”. May 26, 2021 at 15:15

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