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

St Matthew and Tabernacle

1419-23
Bronze, height 270 cm
Orsanmichele, Florence

The bronze St Matthew was commissioned from Ghiberti for Orsanmichele in 1419 by the Arte del Cambio, the guild of bankers. In contrast with his earlier St John, which is imbued with the ideas of the International Gothic, St Matthew represents the culmination of the new classical style. The only Gothic elements are the pointed arch and the florid gable of the tabernacle. Otherwise, the grand figure, poised and balanced before its semi-circle of Corinthian pilasters, recalls the dignity and ease of a classical philosopher portrait. St Matthew places his weight on one leg, leaving the other relaxed, suggesting the figure's potential for movement. His right hand points toward his breast, his left holds an open book in which the opening chapter of his Gospel is set in an early example of the ancient Roman letter forms that will soon became fashionable, thus replacing Gothic-style calligraphy.

This photograph was taken before the figure was removed from its niche and placed into museum.

View images of the exterior sculptural decoration of Orsanmichele.