Until this Sunday, January 13, three panels from Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise will be on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For those Americans who have never been to the Baptistery in Florence, and who don’t plan on visiting Italy any time soon, the exhibition provides a splendid glimpse at one of the masterpieces of the Renaissance. The Met is showing three newly restored panels from Ghiberti’s doors to the Baptistery, as well as some of the sculptures surrounding those panels. The panels on display at the Met depict the stories of creation, Jacob and Esau, and David, while the side sculptures depict various prophets and figures from the Renaissance.
Art historians can provide more insight into Ghiberti’s technique and its impact on European art, but as an ordinary museum-goer, I was struck by the depth of emotion Ghiberti conveyed through the small bronze figures. This was especially apparent to me in his depiction of the creation of man and woman. On the left, God lifts Adam out of the dust of the earth, infusing him with divine life. In the center, God draws out Eve from Adam’s side, and she proceeds forth in all her beauty, guided with exquisite tenderness by angels. I know of no comparison in art for the depiction of the love of God and the simple splendor of man and woman as his creation.
But the small picture online cannot do justice to the real thing. If you are in New York at any time before this Sunday, I highly recommend paying a visit to Ghiberti’s doors at the Met.