GHIBERTI, Lorenzo
(b. 1378, Firenze, d. 1455, Firenze)

Jacob and Esau

1425-52
Gilded bronze, 79 x 79 cm
Baptistry, Florence

Each panel of the Gates of Paradise depicts several episodes of a biblical narrative. In the panel depicting the story of the rival brothers Jacob and Esau, the latter exchanging his birthright as the eldest son for some food from his younger brother Jacob is depicted in the centre background. In front of this scene in the centre foreground is Esau and his hunting dogs being sent by his old and blind father Isaac to hunt for deer, while Esau's departure on this quest is represented in the background at the far right. During Esau's absence, Jacob and their mother, Rebecca, execute a plan whereby Jacob, dressed in the animal skins typical of Esau, approaches Isaac, and thereby deceives him into recognizing the disguised Jacob as his heir. These scenes are illustrated under and in front of the arch on the right. In the foreground the seated Isaac blesses a kneeling Jacob, who has an animal skin slung over his shoulder, while his elderly mother looks on.

The schiacciato relief deriving from Donatello's sculpture and the single-point perspective system allow the space in this panel to recede illusionistically, the figures becoming flatter as well as smaller as they move into the distance.