The Fall of Jericho, Panel 8, Gate of Paradise (East Doors) - Baptistry or Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistry of St. John) Florence, Tuscany, Italy.
The Baptitery is one of the oldest buildings in Florence although it is impossible to exactly determine the period. In the Middle Ages, it was believed to be a Roman pagan temple dedicated to Mars. Its balanced geometrical layout and decorations in white and green marble from Prato originates from the harmonious intergration of Romaneque and Paleochristian architecture developed during between the 11th and 13th centuries.
The Gates of Paradise situated in the Baptistry are a copy of the originals, substituted in 1990 to preserve the panels after over five hundred years of exposure and damage. To protect the original panels for the future, the panels are being restored and kept in a dry environment in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, the museum of the Duomo's art and sculpture. Some of the original panels are on view in the museum, the remaining original panels are being restored and cleaned using lasers in lieu of potentially damaging chemical baths.
In 1401, a competition was announced by the Arte di Calimala (Cloth Importers Guild) to design doors which would eventually be placed on the north side of the baptistry. (The original location for these doors was the east side of the baptistry, but the doors were moved to the north side of the baptistry after Lorenzo Ghiberti completed his second commission, known as the Gates of Paradise.)
It took Ghiberti 21 years to complete these doors. These gilded bronze doors consist of twenty-eight panels, with twenty panels depicting the life of Christ from the New Testament. The eight lower panels show the four evangelists and the Church Fathers Saint Ambrose, Saint Jerome, Saint Gregory and Saint Augustine. The panels are surrounded by a framework of foliage in the door case and gilded busts of prophets and sibyls at the intersections of the panels. Originally installed on the east side, in place of Pisano's doors, they were later moved to the north side.
The figures are distributed in very low relief in a perspective space (a technique invented by Donatello and called rilievo schiacciato, which literally means "flattened relief".) Ghiberti uses different sculptural techniques, from incised lines to almost free-standing figure sculpture, within the panels, further accentuating the sense of space.
The panels are included in a richly decorated gilt framework of foliage and fruit, many statuettes of prophets and 24 busts. The two central busts are portraits of the artist and of his father, Bartolomeo Ghiberti.
Michelangelo referred to these doors as fit to be the "Gates of Paradise" (Porte del Paradiso), and they are still invariably referred to by this name. Giorgio Vasari described them a century later as "undeniably perfect in every way and must rank as the finest masterpiece ever created". Ghiberti himself said they were "the most singular work that I have ever made".
Taken in June 2006.
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