St. John the Baptist, Orsanmichele

Lorenzo Ghiberti
bronze, 8' 4"

This sculpture of the patron saint of Florence was commissioned by the powerful Calimala, the guild of cloth importers and finishers (the same organization that commissioned the East Portal doors for the Baptistry). At the time, this work was the largest bronze which had been cast in Florence, bronze works being about ten times as expensive as marble ones, and technically more difficult. Like some of Ghiberti's early reliefs designed for the East Doors (later on the North Doors), this work illustrates Ghiberti's attraction to the International Style. For example, there is little sense of a body underneath the lyric swags of drapery (note especially the beautiful fold that drapes over his right foot). The contrapposto is exaggerated and other decorative details abound: the curls of his hair and beard, the hair shirt--even the tie that fastens it, and the incised detail on the border of his drapery. This work provides a notable contrast with the classicizing style of Nanni di Banco's roughly contemporary work, Four Crowned Saints at Orsanmichele.

The photographs above were taken in 2006 while those below were taken in the late 1970s. The sculpture in the above photographs is a copy whereas that below is, I believe, the "uncleaned" original.

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See also Ghiberti's reliefs for the North Doors of the Florence Baptistry.

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