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Famed East Door of Battistero (baptistery) in Piazza del Duomo, Florence

The Baptistery, the oldest building in Florence, was used for centuries to baptize every Florentine child. Scholars are still unsure of the baptistery's precise genesis. It is generally accepted that the present building occupies the site of a first century Roman edifice - probably a grand domus of house. It was invariably the baptistery, not the cathedral, that received the most lavish work of art. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the baptistery's three sets of doors, its most sognificant artistic features. We see one of these doors in the photo above.

The east doors were commissioned to Lorenzo Ghiberti in 1425, after he worked for 20 years on the magnificent north doors. The east doors would be the artist's masterpiece and one of the supreme works of Florentine Renaissance. Ghiberti worked on these gates for 27 years with, as he put it, "the greatest diligence and greatest love". Michelangelo thought the gate so beautiful he is said to have described them as the "Gates of Paradise" (Porta del Paradiso).

In these gates Ghiberti used 10 reliefs within square panels. Several scenes in a story were often condensed into a single panel; the only recently understood notions and rules of perspective were skillfully employed; and the subtelety of expression, realism, narrative power, and compositional sophistication expressed all the newly emerged attributes of Renaissance artistic endeavor.

Last Revised October 7, 2007

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