The original design and construction of the Palazzo Pitti remain one of the most hotly debated subjects in the history of Renaissance architecture. Neither the Pitti’s builder nor the date of its construction is known for sure.
Giorgio Vasari is responsible for the traditional identification of Brunelleschi as the building’s original architect. In his Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects he identifies Luca Fancelli as the builder who carried out the work. No direct documentary confirmation of this attribution has thus far been found, though it remains the one most accepted by the majority of scholars.
The palace was already in place in 1461 when it is mentioned for the first time in a contemporary document. It had been built by Luca Pitti, a rich Florentine merchant whose property extended along the Boboli hills to the walls of the city. He wanted the new house to be adjacent to and connected with the house in which his family had been living for some time.
The fifteenth-century building consisted of a square, three-storied block. The façade had three main doors on the ground floor with four high windows and seven windows on each of the two upper floors. The building’s depth was less than the current structure as the open arcade, with its two upper floors, had not yet been built. One of the few depictions of the original house can be seen in a predella panel painted by A. Allori, now in the Church of Santo Spirito (see above). Luca died in 1473, leaving the building unfinished. It remained in the hands of the Pitti family until 1550, although it was largely unoccupied.