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.
These new doors would serve as a votive offering to celebrate the sparing of Florence from relatively recent scourges such as the Black Death in 1348. Many artists competed for this commission and a jury selected seven semifinalists. These finalists include Lorenzo Ghiberti, Filippo Brunelleschi, Donatello and Jacopo della Quercia; with 21-year old Ghiberti winning the commission. At the time of judging, only Ghiberti and Brunelleschi were finalists, and when the judges could not decide, they were assigned to work together on them. Brunelleschi's pride got in the way, and he went to Rome to study architecture leaving Ghiberti to work on the doors himself. Ghiberti's autobiography, however, claimed that he had won, "without a single dissenting voice." It took Ghiberti 21 years to complete these doors. These gilded bronze doors consist of twenty-eight panels
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".
Santa Maria del Fiore
November 10, 2011
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