The image of Florence in Lorenzo Ghiberti’s gates of paradise

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The present paper discusses the sculptural representations of Jerusalem depicted in the David and the Solomon reliefs in Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise (1425-1452). Ghiberti designed the architectural features of the Holy City to incorporate prominent Roman and Florentine landmarks. The significance of the two reliefs becomes clear when they are taken together with the two reliefs of Moses and Joshua. The four lower reliefs – the panels most easily accessible to a spectator – expound the theme of the entry into the Promised Land and the glory of Jerusalem. They also connect the representation of Jerusalem to events in the contemporary history of Florence. Florence was the home of the pope in exile, and the host to the Ecumenical Council, which was intended to engender great Church reforms. The Florentines promoted themselves as the elected nation and their city as both a New Rome and a New Jerusalem. These aspirations were reflected in liturgical celebrations, held inside the church and outside in the city streets. They were the subject of sermons and, as we see in the Gates of Paradise, they found expression in the visual arts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-30
Number of pages18
JournalArtibus et Historiae
Issue number77
StatePublished - 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
According to Vespasiano da Bisticci, Cosimo shared the humanistic interests of his good friends Niccoli and Traversari, who were probably involved in the programme for the doors.94 Cosimo was also associated with Gomezio, the abbot of the Badia. Prior to his exile in 1433 Cosimo had participated in the plans for the abbey’s renewal.95 His financial support and artistic patronage of the Badia were evidence of his desire to surpass his Strozzi and Albizzi rivals and to establish the link between his family and this ancient church. During his exile in 1434, Cosimo stayed in Venice in the Benedictine monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, which had ties to the Florentine Badia and to Gomezio.96 Eugenius IV (born in Venice), whose political aspirations were reflected in the architectural views of the panels, found refuge in Medicean Florence and the financial support of its unofficial rulers. The culmination of the pope’s stay in Florence was the Ecumenical Council, which was begun in 1438 in Ferrara, but in 1439 was continued in Florence as the result of Cosimo’s invitation and sponsorship.97 During the months that the Council was held in Florence, this city became the centre of Christian church life, whether Greek or Latin. Cosimo’s critical role in this event brought him honour as a wise and righteous ruler of the city and, as Dale Kent argued, also ‘increased […] the profits of his bank’.98 The figures of David and Solomon, who in Ghiberti’s panels signified the pope and the church, later came to represent, especially after the death of Cosimo’s brother Lorenzo in 1440, the connection to the Medici rulers, with the Biblical Jerusalem understood as corresponding to Medicean Florence.99

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 by IRSA.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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