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Doors - Gates of Paradise
  • Gates of Paradise
    Ghiberti, Lorenzo, born 1378 - died 1455
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Gates of Paradise

  • Object:

    Doors

  • Place of origin:

    Florence (city) (originals, sculpted)
    London (in Clerkenwell , electrotyped)

  • Date:

    1425-1452 (sculpted)
    1867 (electrotyped)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Ghiberti, Lorenzo, born 1378 - died 1455 (sculptor)
    Franchi and Son, Giovanni (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Electrotype

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1867-44

  • Gallery location:

    Cast Courts, Room 46b, The Weston Cast Court , case WS

These are electrotype doors cast by Messrs Franchi & Sons in London in about 1867. They were cast from the 'Gates of Paradise' doors at Florence Cathedral made by Lorenzo Ghiberti in Florence between 1425 and 1452.

This is an electrotyped impression of the second Baptistry door commissioned from Lorenzo Ghiberti by the Arte dei Mercantoni di Calimala (the guild of the merchants dealing in foreign cloth, and exporting cloth). The first door, executed between 1403 and 1424, was decorated with reliefs containing scenes from the New Testament. For the second door, in which the scenes were to be drawn from the Old Testament, Leonardo Bruni (1370- 1444) submitted a programme at the invitation of the Calimala guild. This programme was rejected in favour of a new scheme, which may have been drawn up by Ambrogio Traversari (1386-1439). In July 1452, it was decided to set up the new doors, not at the North portal for which they had been intended, but "because of their beauty", at the East entrance opposite the Cathedral. In order to achieve this, Ghiberti's first bronze doors were shifted from the East entrance to their present location, the North entrance.

Ghiberti (1378-1455) was a most celebrated bronze-caster, sculptor, goldsmith, draughtsman, architect and writer and the first representative of the universial Renaissance artist. His art reached its most brilliant expression in the Gates of Paradise. No other contemporary artist had so deep an influence on the art and sculpture of later times. Ghiberti’s writings, I commentarii, which also include his autobiography, established him as the first modern historian of the fine arts.

The method was invented by Moritz von Jacobi in Russia in 1838. It has complemented the older form of stereotyping. A mold is made, often of wax and then coated with very fine graphite powder or paint. The mold will then be suspended in an electrolyte solution.
In printing electrotypes are used instead of the original for long press runs, to avoid wear and damage to expensive type and linecuts. Electrotypes also can duplicate and replace linoleum cuts, woodcuts, and wood engravings and are used to duplicate metal sculpture. In the 19th century, museums often displayed electrotypes of ancient coins instead of the originals and individuals purchased electrotypes for their private collections.

Physical description

Electrotype doors cast from Lorenzo Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise. Framing the reliefs are 24 heads and 24 figures of prophets in niches. The door surround contains a frieze of birds and sprays of fruit and flowers.

Place of Origin

Florence (city) (originals, sculpted)
London (in Clerkenwell , electrotyped)

Date

1425-1452 (sculpted)
1867 (electrotyped)

Artist/maker

Ghiberti, Lorenzo, born 1378 - died 1455 (sculptor)
Franchi and Son, Giovanni (made)

Materials and Techniques

Electrotype

Dimensions

Height: 767.5 cm, Width: 473 cm, Weight: 870 kg

Object history note

Purchased from Messrs Franchi & Sons in 1867 for £950.

Historical context note

This is an electrotyped impression of the second Baptistry door commissioned from Lorenzo Ghiberti by the Arte dei Mercantoni di Calimala (the guild of the merchants dealing in foreign cloth, and exporting cloth). The first door, executed between 1403 and 1424, was decorated with reliefs containing scenes from the New Testament. For the second door, in which the scenes were to be drawn from the Old Testament, Leonardo Bruni (1370- 1444) submitted a programme at the invitation of the Calimala guild. This programme was rejected in favour of a new scheme, which may have been drawn up by Ambrogio Traversari (1386-1439). In July 1452, it was decided to set up the new doors, not at the North portal for which they had been intended, but "because of their beauty", at the East entrance opposite the Cathedral. In order to achieve this, Ghiberti's first bronze doors were shifted from the East entrance to their present location, the North entrance.

The narrative reliefs represent:

LEFT DOOR:
1The Creation of Adam, the Creation of Eve, the Fall and the Expulsion from Paradise
2The story of Noah
3Essau and Jacob
4The story of Moses
5David and Goliath

RIGHT DOOR:
1Cain and Abel
2The story of Abraham
3The story of Joseph
4The story of Joshua
5Solomon and The Queen of Sheba

Framing the reliefs are 24 heads and 24 figures of prophets in niches. The door surround contains a frieze of birds and sprays of fruit and flowers.

Descriptive line

Electrotype, impressions of 'Gates of Paradise' doors, from the Baptistry of Florence Cathedral, by Lorenzo Ghiberti, 1425-1452 , electrotyped by Giovanni Franchi & Sons, Clerkenwell, 1867

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Trusted, Majorie. ed. The Making of Sculpture: the Materials and Techniques of European Sculpture. London: V&A Publications, 2007, p. 165. pl. 314

Techniques

Electrotyping

Subjects depicted

Fruit; Figures; Flowers; Birds; Heads (body parts)

Categories

Architecture; Sculpture

Production Type

Copy

Collection

Sculpture Collection

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