Lorenzo Ghiberti

Lorenzo Ghiberti, born Lorenzo di Bartolo, in Florence, Italy in 1378 was an artist of the early Renaissance known for his sculpture and metalwork.  His unique style helped to inspire works of the High Renaissance.  His father, Bartoluccio Ghiberti, was a trained artist and goldsmith and trained his son in the art of the goldsmith trade.  In 1400 the bubonic plague hit Florence causing Ghiberti to escape to Romagna where he assisted in the completion of wall frescos for the castle of Carlo Malatesta. 

In 1401 Ghiberti began to gain fame when he participated in a competition to design doors for the Baptistery of the Cathedral in Florence.  Each bronze door created 28 detailed scenes in total (14 on each door) from the New Testament was expertly produced and polished.  Ghiberti was then commissioned to make a second set of doors for the church.  These doors were to contain scenes from the Old Testament.  These doors consisted of 10 panels, 5 panels on each side of the 17 foot high doors.  These doors were completed and installed in 1452 and were an immediate masterpiece.  Each of the panels is covered in a layer of gold allowing the doors to shine.  When the young Michelangelo admired the doors he referred to them as The Gates of Paradise.  Ghiberti was then commissioned to create a bronze sculpture of St. John the Baptist for the Arte di Calimala.  His other commissions included medallions and jewelry for powerful and wealthy patrons.  He also created stained and painted glass windows for several cathedrals.  Ghiberti died in 1444 at the age of 77.

The influence of Ghiberti’s doors reached artists for generations, including Michelangelo.  It is said that the pose Michelangelo used for his portrayal of Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel came from one of Ghiberti’s panels representing Adam and Eve.

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Creation of Adam (hands detail)
Creation of Adam (hands detail) by Michelangelo

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“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

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