PISANO, Andrea
(active c. 1290-1349 in Pisa)

South Doors (Life of St John the Baptist)

1330
Gilded bronze, 486 x 280 cm
Baptistry, Florence

In 1329 a pair of bronze doors was commissioned for the Florentine Baptistry by the Arte di Calimala (Guild of Cloth Importers), responsible for supervising the building. Bronze casting was a specialized activity and no one in Florence was capable of the task. Therefore the Guild selected Andrea Pisano from Pontedera near Pisa, renowned for its bronze tradition.

The doors (consisting of 28 rectangular panels) were destined for the south portal of the Baptistry, the most frequented entrance. Since they were always open, they were meant to be read separately, starting at the at the upper left corner like the page of a book. At the four corners of each scene are lions, heads (the Marzocco, symbol of the Florentines) with bands of alternating rosettes and studs between. Each door contains 10 scenes in the upper section from the life of St John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence to whom the Baptistry is dedicated. On the panels of the lower section the theological virtues are depicted.

Much admired, Andrea's doors became a symbol of the glory of Florence and were the model for the next set.