Lorenzo Ghiberti, North Gate of the Baptistery

Lorenzo Ghiberti
Sala del Paradiso
Original location
Baptistery of San Giovanni, exterior, north portal
Height: 510 cm; Width: 310 cm;

This door, created for the north entrance of the Baptistery, is a masterpiece by Lorenzo Ghiberti, realized between 1403 and 1424. Starting from the bottom, the panels depict the Doctors of the Church, the Evangelists and stories from the life of Christ. The Wool Merchants Guild held a competition in 1401 to decide who was to make the second set of bronze doors for the Baptistery, following the model of those created by Andrea Pisano during the 14th century, that is, composed of 28 bas-reliefs within quadrilobate frames. Filippo Brunelleschi took part in the competition that marks the birth of the Renaissance for the history of modern art. The sequence of panels on Ghiberti’s doors starts from the lowest panel on the left and continues horizontally, rising row after row, first on the left-hand door and then on the right. The lowest row depicts the Four Doctors of the Church, who comment on the Gospels written by the four Evangelists, depicted in the row above them. The Evangelists, in turn, narrated the life of Jesus, whose story is depicted in the third row above them. The narration unfolds in individual stories and includes: the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Adoration of the Magi, Jesus among the doctors of the temple, the Baptism of Christ, the temptations in the desert, the expulsion of the merchants from the temple, Jesus and the apostles on Lake Tiberias, the Transfiguration, the resurrection of Lazarus, the Entry into Jerusalem, the Last Supper, the Prayer in the Garden, the Capture of Christ, the Flagellation, Christ before Pilate, the Ascent to Calvary, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, the Pentecost. The frames are decorated with an ivy inhabited by small animals and insects and by clypei from which peep out heads of characters (prophets? characters from the Old Testament?). The head in the upper right corner of the relief with the Annunciation is the self-portrait of Lorenzo Ghiberti. The artist's signature can be read above the second and third stories of Christ: OPUS LAURENTII FLORENTINI (“Work by Lorenzo from Florence”). On the back, in correspondence with each of the 28 reliefs, there are as many roundels in which the heads of roaring lionesses are depicted, in different poses and perspectives.

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Sala del Paradiso