1400 – 1500
Renaissance in Italy & the North

Brunelleschi & Ghiberti, The Sacrifice of Isaac


Filippo Brunelleschi & Lorenzo Ghiberti, Sacrifice of Isaac, competition panels, Baptistery doors, gilded bronze relief, 1401-2 (Bargello, Florence)

 Brunelleschi, Sacrifice of Isaac, Competition Panel
 Brunelleschi

 

Ghiberti, Sacrifice of Isaac, Competition PanelGhiberti

The Baptistery
There are three buildings that mark the spiritual center of Florence, the Cathedral (with its dome by Brunelleschi), the bell tower (or campanile, designed by Giotto and decorated with reliefs by Andrea Pisano), and the Baptistery. The Baptistery is a 6th or 7th century octagonal building with three entrances and was particularly beloved by the citizens of Florence, who had been baptized there for centuries.

The Commission for the Doors
In 1401, the cloth merchant's guild decided to commission a second set of doors for the Florence Baptistery.

The major guilds of Florence had considerable power and were often responsible for maintaining and developing the city's major public buildings - the cloth merchant's guild was the most powerful among the guilds.

One set of doors had already been created by Andrea Pisano and were completed in 1360. Two panels survive from the competition for the second set, Brunelleschi's entry and Ghiberti's entry. Ghiberti won by a narrow margin.

The Historic Context
And to set the scene—just when the competition was announced, the city-state of Florence was threatened with invasion by the Duke of Milan—their powerful arch enemy. But in 1402, the Duke of Milan died suddenly, and Florence was spared.

In the aftermath, Florence experienced an enormous sense of civic pride—including pride in being a Republic where its citizens lived freely. They saw themselves as the heir to the ancient Roman republic and the golden age of Athens in the 5th century B.C.E.

Your Comments (1)

Previous Comments

Tiffany Kwan wrote on Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wow, How interesting about how Ghiberti ended up winning.

Add Comments

We think Smarthistory works best when it prompts discussion. Please post (on-topic) comments.*

*All comments are moderated

To post a comment, you need the Adobe Flash Plugin. Download it from here.

Where and When

Brunelleschi & Ghiberti, The Sacrifice of Isaac
Florence, Italy
1401
This work is an open educational resource and This work is licensed under a Creative Common Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 license.