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

Eastern Door of the Baptistery (Porta del Paradiso)

Bronze with gilding, 599 x 462 cm
Baptistery, Florence

As finally executed, the door is divided into ten large, nearly square panels, each illustrating a number of episodes and set within borders richly decorated with small figures and heads. The outer frame is ornamented with leaves, birds and animals. The programme must have been decided on soon after the commission was awarded, as the ten scenes were already rough cast by 4 April 1436 (or possibly 1437). The ten reliefs were completed by 7 August 1447 and the following years devoted to the framing; the gilding was completed on 16 June 1452.

The ten reliefs are the following (from top left to bottom right):

  1. Creation of Adam and Eve
  2. Cain and Abel
  3. Stories of Noah
  4. Sacrifice of Isaac
  5. Isaac with Esau and Jacob
  6. Stories of Joseph
  7. Moses on Mt Sinai
  8. Stories of Joshua
  9. David and Goliath
  10. Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

View the scheme of the Porta del Paradiso.

The new problems of design that confronted Ghiberti in the Gates of Paradise were chiefly those of uniting several scenes within ordered compositions and organizing the relief space in continuously connected layers. Here, too, Ghiberti's style evolves continuously throughout the sequence of panels, from Jacob and Esau and Cain and Abel, through Genesis and Moses on Mt Sinai, to David and Goliath and Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The front stage is increasingly reduced, while the background receives increasing emphasis, with a growing preference for shallow relief. Correspondingly, there is a slight diminution of scale in the foreground figures. This combination of sculptural and pictorial techniques tends to resolve the tension between high and low relief and thus unify the ensemble.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.