Gates of Paradise (Porta del Paradiso)

Gates of Paradise (Porta del Paradiso)

Purchased from Messrs Franchi and Sons in 1867 for £950
Museum no. 1867-44


Door of the Baptistry of S. Giovanni, Florence known as the Porta del Paradiso, or Gates of Paradise
Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378/81-1455)
Gilt bronze
Baptistry of S. Giovanni, Florence, Italy

This is 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:
1 - The Creation of Adam, the Creation of Eve, the Fall and the Expulsion from Paradise; 2 - The story of Noah; 3 - Essau and Jacob; 4 - The story of Moses; 5 - David and Goliath;
1 - Cain and Abel; 2 - The story of Abraham; 3 - The story of Joseph; 4 - The story of Joshua; 5 - Solomon 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.