Lorenzo Ghiberti

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Ghiberti, Lorenzo

(lōrĕn`tsō gēbĕr`tē), c.1378–1455, Florentine sculptor. He received his early training in the workshop of Bartoluccio. In 1401 he entered the competition for a bronze portal for the baptistery in Florence. He won the contest against his closest rival, BrunelleschiBrunelleschi, Filippo
, 1377–1446, first great architect of the Italian Renaissance, a Florentine by birth. Trained as sculptor and goldsmith, he designed a trial panel, The Sacrifice of Isaac
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. Their trial panels, depicting The Sacrifice of Isaac, are now in the Bargello. From 1403 to 1424 Ghiberti worked on the north portal. The door was designed to match the earlier portal by Andrea PisanoPisano, Andrea
, c.1290–c.1348, Italian sculptor, also called Andrea da Pontedera. His most important work, the first bronze doors of the baptistery in Florence, was begun in 1330. In 28 panels he depicted scenes from the life of John the Baptist.
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. Consequently, Ghiberti had to work within the limits of the ornate quatrefoil framework of the Gothic period. The reliefs depicted scenes from the life of Jesus and representations of the Evangelists and the Fathers of the Church. During these years Ghiberti also executed several imposing statues for the Church of Orsanmichele: St. John the Baptist, St. Matthew, and St. Stephen. In 1424 he took a short trip to Venice. On his return to Florence he began to design the east portal of the baptistery. He devoted some 23 years to this project, during which time his workshop became one of the leading centers of Florentine activity. Ghiberti was allowed more freedom in the execution of this portal, and within ten square panels he adapted the recent innovations in art. He employed various grades of relief most effectively, from the round to the almost flat schiacciato technique. The new system of perspective was skillfully used in the architectural setting of three reliefs, Isaac, Joseph, and Solomon. The Florentines proudly named his portal the Gates of Paradise. Five of the ten panels were torn off the doors by the flood of 1966 and restored with the aid of exact replicas from San Francisco, Calif. To protect them from the elements and pollution, the original panels were replaced on the doors by replicas in 1990. Ghiberti was asked to supervise the building of the Cathedral dome, but he was unsuccessful in this endeavor. In his last years he wrote an important book, the Commentarii (tr. by Ludwig Goldscheider, 1949), which contains an analysis of earlier art and an account of his own life. This is the earliest surviving autobiography by an artist.

Bibliography

See study by R. Krautheimer (2d ed. 1970).

Ghiberti, Lorenzo

 

Born about 1381 in Florence, died there Dec. 1, 1455. Italian sculptor and jeweler of the early Renaissance.

Ghiberti worked in Florence and in Siena (1416-17), Venice (1424-25), and Rome (up to 1416 and about 1430). His early works were bronze reliefs (mainly Gospel scenes) on the north, or second, baptistery doors (1404-24) in Florence and the bronze statues of St. John the Baptist (1412-15), Matthew (1419-22), and Stephen (1425-29) in the Or San Michele Church in Florence; they have preserved their medieval ornateness and jewel-like delicacy. The connection with medieval art is also revealed in the relief compositions, whose spatial closeness is dictated by the four-petal frames (quatrefoils). During his mature period, Ghiberti came under the influence of Donatello and F. Brunelleschi. From 1425 to 1452, while Ghiberti was working on the east, or third, doors of the Florentine baptistery, his work came under the influence of the principles of Renaissance art. This work, the most important by Ghiberti, consists often reliefs representing biblical scenes against a background of architectural forms and landscapes. The work is notable for its poetic and lifelike forms and for the plastic richness of the surroundings and the human figures. The use of the knowledge of antique art and the discoveries of his contemporaries in the area of linear perspective, as well as the virtuosity of the treatment of the material in creating the finest relief gradations from the highest to the lowest, lend Ghiberti’s compositions spatial depth, rhythmic multiplicity of images, and a musical fluidity of lines. Ghiberti also created the reliefs on the baptistery font in Siena (bronze, 1417-27). No examples of Ghiberti’s work as a jeweler have been preserved.

WORKS

Commentarii, 1447-1455 (manuscript).
Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Denkwürdigkeiten (I Commentarii) … , vols. 1-2. Edited by J. von Schlosser. Berlin, 1912. Incomplete Russian translation: Commentarii: Zapiski ob ital’ianskom iskusstve. Annotated and with a preface by A. Guber. Moscow, 1938.

REFERENCE

Krautheimer, R., and T. Krautheimer-Hess. Lorenzo Ghiberti. Princeton, N. J., 1956.