His Story

In an effort to be scholarly with my first presentation in Art History 395 I sit comfortably with my laptop and prepare myself for an evening of researching the name Lorenzo Ghiberti.


Yah…no idea.

I begin scrolling through the bountiful list provided by the university approved online JSTOR library and realized I don’t know what I’m looking for amongst these pages. Utilizing Bing.com, I typed in Lorenzo Ghiberti and the 2nd most searched phrase listed was “Lorenzo Ghiberti bronze sculpture”. Right away I knew what he was best known for – Bronze sculpture.
According to Wikipedia.com

Lorenzo Ghiberti (Italian: [loˈrɛntso ɡiˈbɛrti]) (1378 – 1 December 1455), born Lorenzo di Bartolo, was a Florentine Italian artist of the Early Renaissance best known as the creator of the bronze doors of the Baptistry of Florence Cathedral, called by Michelangelo the “Gates of Paradise”. Trained as a goldsmith and sculptor, he established an important workshop for sculpture in metal. His book of Commentari contains important writing on art, as well as what may be the earliest surviving autobiography by any artist.

Here is a link to view the Baptistry Cathedral


Indeed, Lorenzo had made the most beautiful bronze relief panels ever. If you wanted to know that aspect of him yes, historically he had great influence in the world of art.

Wait a minute Wikipedia? That’s not an academic source! So armed with the basic information of who Lorenzo Ghiberti was, I retrieved two documents that caught my attention from the JSTOR website. One was a review by Alfred Corn titled “Ghiberti’s Greatest Work The Gates of Paradies: Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Renaissance Masterpiece by Lorenzo Ghiberti: Gary M. Dadke”. I referred the class to this one, which is your standard scholarly review on the life and artistic practice of Lorenzo Ghiberti including specific discussion on form and practice.

Form and practice didn’t really interest me because for one thing I didn’t even know what a baptistry was. So I binged it and found that the baptistry speaks directly to the phrase “The Gates of Paradise.” (Michaelangelo) I gleaned the opinion from the review by Alfred Corn that a baptistery is a place in which strictly baptisms occurred. By virtue of passing through the “Gates of Paradise” you give yourself an entry point into heaven and in the age of Lorenzo Ghiberti that happened within a huge Cathedral. I guess when people are threatened at the stake to become Christian – Ya… You are going to need a pool of holy water.
….Ew….. They baptized everyone in the same dirty “holy” water?

Ghiberti was commissioned to do some pretty serious Christian resurfacing to reflect the New Italy. Ghiberti was put in charge of depicting the early Christian stories such as Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau and David and Goliath.

As an artist it was lucrative work, but based on the readings, I got the feeling that he grew tired of the work because it went against his artistic principle.

At this time in Western civilization there was a shift amongst the consciousness and as the word Renaissance translates “To be reborn” The Birth of Christianity occurred at the expense of the very artists Christians were using to feed the masses visual propaganda.

I referenced another article that really made me think titled Archaeology and the Anxiety of Loss: Effacing Preservation from the History of Renaissance Rome. On page 457 author David Karmon writes

“With the advent of agriculture, comes the parceling out of land and property rights, changes that lead to conflict, violence and war.”

Ghiberti is asked to interpret Cain and Abel, which depicts the separation of good and evil within the brothers. What a story to have to tell! His artist brothers are literally killing each others physical lifes work – erasing them from all history. Like nothing existed before Christianity.

The creation of Cain and Abel in my view, marked the end of the perceived Golden Age, where artists were free to depict whatever they wanted and Lorenzo was gifted the responsibility for telling the most important stories relating to the rise of Christianity and how Art on the doors of churches and public buildings marked the beginning of propagating the church to replace history. I find it very interesting that the above mentioned bronze panels were the only remaining panels and after a decade are almost finished being restored.

The artists of the day were the natural historians and those who were true to their artistic nature revolted against the removal of Antiquity – otherwise known as Greek mythology and “pagan” creation stories, the bases to all of their artistic inspirations. For 600 years the Artists were slaves to the cultural cleansing practiced by the church killing Art as it was known in Rome.

So in my head I’m making these comparisons to current Canadian History and how the Discovery of the “New World” was actually a historical reenactment of the very first Cultural Genocide that gave birth to Christianity some 2000 years ago with the ‘birth’ of Christ.  For 512 years the Christian Regime has been in place systematically inflicting cultural genocide but unlike Greek Mythology, Our Indigenous Way of Life has proven to be a sustainable prosperous way of life, something not yet achieved by Western Civilization. I’m thinking wow… is this the New World Renaissance shifting into a new paradigm? An alternate reality? A different ending??

And I’m just like wow…. This Art History class Rocks…

Further readings on Lorenzo Ghiberti


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