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Saturday Art: The Baptistery in Florence

Bsaptistery, Florence, Italy

Gates of Paradise, Scene of Exodus

(Pictures courtesy of Richard Carter on

One of the oldest of the significant buildings in Florence, Italy, is the Baptistery of San Giovanni, which most visitors are taken to for the reason that the “Gates of Paradise” – so called by Michelangelo – originated there.   The doors have been replaced with replicas, as have many outdoor works, for their protection.

By combining several biblical episodes into a single frame in “Adam and Eve,” Ghiberti demonstrated his command of high and low relief and introduced a narrative technique new in sculpture—the simultaneous depiction of successive scenes. And with his portrayal in “David” of a pitched battle and a triumphal procession, the artist showed a flair for evoking large crowds within a small area…The third panel, “Jacob and Esau,” is Ghiberti’s most masterful….The receding tiles of the floor illustrate the recent innovation of scientific perspective, and the arches and pilasters are inspired by Roman architecture.

The Baptistery has an polygonal structure, and seems to have been put up originally as a study in celestial movement.   The mosaics on the floor of the North side were put in around 1000 A.D., and traced the movement of astronomical bodies.    They have since been moved, in the thirteenth century, to the East, so their accuracy is not distinguishable.

….through a hole in the dome, solar radiation affecting the signs of the Zodiac engraved on marble, thus allowing it to control the path of the sun during the year.

Later, in a more religious art period, the many other features of the Baptistery were added, and the doors are the work of Pisano and Ghiberti.   Mosaics include works of Cimabue, Donatello’s master, as well as Donatello himself, and Meliore as well as Coppo di Marcovaldo, Tuscan artists.

The doors are well worth a visit, and some videos present them well, with a perspective they merit and that still photos won’t provide.

Of course, the Uffizi Galeries are a focal point of a visit to Florence, and more than a day would be required to go through those, alone.   If you get the chance to go, book your tickets in advance so that you won’t be disappointed.

Street in Florence, outside Uffizi Galleries.

(Picture courtesy of mharrsch on


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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.