The “Gates of Paradise” by Lorenzo Ghiberti
Michelangelo has often been credited for the words by which these famous golden doors are most commonly known, but art historian Antonio Paolucci has pointed out that “of Paradise” was a term which was in common use for central doors leading into sacred buildings and hence the name may well have predated Michelangelo’s reputed observation (Paolucci 1996).
The contract in which Ghiberti was commissioned to create the doors was dated 2 January 1425. They were completed nearly thirty years later on 16 June 1452. Ghiberti was assisted by Benozzo Gozzoli and Michelozzo. During the same period Michelozzo also worked with Donatello on the creation of the pulpit for the Prato Cathedral. On completion of the new doors, the Consuls of the Calimala guild chose to move the existing doors (also by Ghiberti, depicting the Life of Christ) to the north side of the Baptistery and to replace them with the “Gates of Paradise”, opposite the entrance to the Florence Duomo. They occupied this place of honour until they were replaced by a copy in 1990. For their protection and restoration, the original panels have been removed to the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, after some five hundred years of exposure to the elements.
( Reference: Paolucci, Antonio. “The Baptistery of San Giovanni: A Compendium of Florentine Medieval and Renaissance Sculpture.” In The Origins of Renaissance Art: The Baptistery Doors, Florence, 7-24. New York: George Braziller, 1996.)