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One of the most important early Renaissance sculptors, Ghiberti is best known as the creator of the bronze doors of the Baptistery of Florence.
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The son of a goldsmith, in Florence, Italy, Lorenzo Ghiberti would become one of the most influential artists of the early Renaissance. A child prodigy, he received his first commission at age 23. Ghiberti multi-tasked much of his work including the doors for the Florence baptistery and numerous statues. He was a student of humanism and incorporated much of its philosophy into his work.
Lorenzo di Cione Ghiberti was born in Pelgao, near Florence, Italy, in 1378 (the exact month and day of his birth are unknown). He was well-trained by his father, Bartoluccio Ghiberti, a well-respected goldsmith in Florence. In 1392, he was admitted to the "Silk and Gold" Guild as an apprentice, and by 1398, had passed his examination to become a guild master goldsmith. In 1400, he traveled to Rimini to escape the plague in Florence and received further training as a painter, assisting in the completion of wall frescoes at the Castle of Carlo I Malatesta.
In 1401, Lorenzo Ghiberti began work for a commission sponsored by the Arte di Calimala (Cloth Importers Guild) to make a pair of bronze doors for the Baptistery of Florence. Six other artists also applied, including Filippo Brunelleschi and Jacopo della Quercia. Ghiberti won the commission with his trial piece of a bronze relief of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac. The original plan was for the two doors to depict various scenes from the Old Testament, but the plan was later changed to include scenes from the New Testament. Ghiberti was commissioned to work on the baptistery's second set of doors, with the first set completed by artist Andrea Pisano in the early 14th century.
In Ghiberti's piece, each door contains 14 quatrefoil-framed scenes from the life of Christ, the evangelists and the church fathers. In rendering the doors, Ghiberti adopted the linear grace of the early 15th century gothic style of Florence to the expressive power of the newer Renaissance style. The result was a heightened illusion of depth. Completed and installed in 1424, the doors were so highly praised that the Arte de Calimala hired Ghiberti to work on another set of doors.
Over the 20 years that he spent working on the doors, Lorenzo Ghiberti also devoted his time to creating the designs for the stained-glass windows of the Florence cathedral, and served as architectural consultant to the cathedral's building supervisors.
In 1412, the Arte di Calimala gave him another commission: to make a larger-than-life-sized bronze statue of their patron saint, John the Baptist, outside the guild's communal building, Or San Michele (also known as Orsanmichele). A bold undertaking, Ghiberti finished the work in 1416 and was quickly commissioned to do two more similar large bronze statues for the guild. To complete all of this work, Ghiberti operated a smoothly functioning workshop with many assistants.
In 1417, Ghiberti was given a commission to make two bronze reliefs for the baptismal of the Siena Cathedral; this project took him 19 years to complete because he was so busy with his other commissions.
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