Friday, 30 June 2017

Vasari's Lives of the Artists Chapter VIII: Lorenzo Ghiberti.

Lorenzo Ghiberti is the eighth artist in my abridged version of Vasari's Lives of the Artists, which means I'm about a quarter of the way through, though there are some very lengthy chapters ahead! As, I'm afraid to say, with all the other artists so far, Ghiberti was new to me, and now I'd say he was a new favourite.

The Life of Lorenzo Ghiberti, Sculptor
[c. 1381 - 1455]

"There is no doubt that in every city, those individuals whose talents achieve some fame among their fellow man become, in most instances, a holy light of inspiration for many others, both those who are born after them as well as those who live in their own age, and they also receive infinite praise and extraordinary rewards during their own lifetime. There is nothing which more arouses men's minds or causes them to consider less burdensome the disciple of their studies than the prospect of honour and profit that is later to be derived from the exercise of their talents, for these benefits make difficult undertakings seem easier for everyone, and men's talents grow more quickly when they are exalted by worldly praise. Countless numbers of people, who see and hear others being praised, take great pains in their work to put themselves in a position to earn the rewards they see their compatriots have deserved. Because of this in ancient times, men of talent were either rewarded with riches and hoonoured with triumphs and statues. But since it rarely happens that talent is not persecuted by envy, it is necessary to do one's utmost to overcome envy through absolute pre-eminence or to become vigorous and powerful in order to endure under such envious attacks. Lorenzo di Cione Ghiberti (also known as Lorenzo di Bartoluccio) knew how to do so very well, thanks both to his merits and good fortune, for Donatello the sculptor and Filippo Brunelleschi, the architect and sculptor, both superb artists, declared him their equal and recognised him to be a better master in casting than they were themselves, although common sense might have led them to maintain the contrary. This was truly an action that redounded to their glory, but to the confusion of many other presumptuous men who are set to work  and seek to usurp the rank earned through the talent of others, and who, after straining for a thousand years to produce a single work without any success, trouble and frustrate the works of others by their malice and envy."
Ghiberti, Vasari writes, started his professional life as a goldsmith, learning from his father Bartoluccio Ghiberti. He left Florence during the plague, and when he returned he was commissioned to build the doors of the church of San Giovanni, the oldest church of the city, and he went on to work on other doors, working in bronze, such as those of the Office of the Works Department. As with many of the other artists in Varari's Lives, his inspiration came mostly from the Bible, particularly the New Testament, and the lives of the saints. As well as castings, Ghiberti also cast statues, such as those at Orsanmichele. Vasari concludes this relatively long chapter with a quote from Vettorio Ghiberti,
"When Michelangelo saw the panels
shining upon the church in gilded bronze
he stood amazed; and after long wonder, he broke the solemn silence in this way:
'Oh divine work! Oh door worthy of heaven!'"
Here are some of Ghiberti's works, the majority of which I found on the wonderful Web Gallery of Art:

Story of Joseph from The Gates of Paradise.

Sybil, from The Gates of Paradise.

Detail from The Gates of Paradise.

Cain and Abel from the Eastern Doors of the Florence Baptistery.

Eastern Doors of the Florence Baptistery.

Jacob and Esau from the doors of the Florence Baptistery.

The Last Supper on the doors of the Florence Baptistery.

Noah and the Flood on the doors of the Florence Baptistery.

North Doors of the Florence Baptistery.

Sacrifice of Isaac (Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence).

Self-Portrait of Ghiberti on doors of the Florence Baptistery.

Solomon and the Queen of Sheba on doors of the Florence Baptistery.

John the Baptist (Orsanmichele, Florence).

The Creation of Adam and Eve on the doors of the Florence Baptistery.
The Story of Abraham on the doors of the Florence Baptistery.

The next artist from Vasari's Lives will be The Life of Masaccio from San Giovanni di Valdarno, Painter.

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