Monday, November 21, 2005

A renaissance rivalry

The Sacrifice of Isaac was the assignment given those who wished to compete for the honor of creating bronze doors for the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Florence. The competition, which was well documented at the time, came down to the rivalry between two great artists, Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi. The judges had a hard time choosing between them. Both contest panels are today on display in the Bargello in Florence.

Ghiberti, Sacrifice of Isaac, 1401-03

Brunelleschi, Sacrifice of Isaac, 1401-03

"Ghiberti’s initial contract of 1403 called for him to create the east doors of the Baptistery, which, because they faced the cathedral, were to depict the life of Christ in twenty-eight panels, fourteen each on the right and left sides of the divided doors. He was scheduled to finish in nine years, but the doors were only gilded in 1423 and finally hung in 1424—twenty-one years after they were started. The delay could not be ascribed to a lack of talent in the workshop. Ghiberti’s assistants at various times during this project included some of the most eminent artists of the early Renaissance, including Benozzo Gozzoli, Paolo Uccello, Antonio del Pollaiuolo, Luca della Robbia, and a sculptor who would soon astound Italy with his genius, Donatello.... Brunelleschi, whose contest panel was acquired by Cosimo de’ Medici, was now immersed in building the magnificent dome for Florence’s Cathedral." From Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World.

Ghiberti's second set of doors for the Florentine Baptistry revealed advances in technical power and a mastery of perspective that provoked Michelangelo's oft-cited remark that they were "so beautiful they could stand at the entrance of Paradise."

Sacrifice of Isaac 1429-52

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