THERE is no doubt that those who attain to fame among men by means of some gift usually afford a most blessed light of example to many who arise after them and to those who live in the same age, while, in addition to this, they earn infinite praise and extraordinary rewards in their lifetime. There is nothing which more excites the minds of men, and which makes the difficulties of study appear less irksome, than the honour and benefit which afterwards accrue from the sweat of virtue; thus difficult undertakings are rendered easy to everyone, and a noble ambition inflames men to greater efforts in order to earn the praises of the world. Great numbers of those who hear and see what has been accomplished set themselves to work to earn what their countrymen have won, and this was the reason why in ancient times the virtuous were rewarded with riches, or honoured with triumphs and statues. But, as it rarely happens that merit is not persecuted by envy, it is necessary to endeavour to overcome this so far as is possible by extreme excellence, or that men should fortify themselves to resist its attacks. In this Lorenzo di Cione Gliiberti, otherwise di Bartoluccio, was eminently successful, both by his merit and his good fortune, for Donato the sculptor, and Filippo Brunelleschi the architect, both excellent artists and his contemporaries, admitted that he was a better master in casting than they were, however natural it would have been for them to say the contrary. This indeed redo to their glory and the confusion of many who presumptuously push themselves to the front to the exclusion of men of ability, and after painfully labouring a thousand years to make one thing, produce nothing and merely disturb and harass the skill of others by their malignity and envy.
Lorenzo was the son of Bartoluccio Ghiberti, and learned the art of a goldsmith with his father from his earliest years, for the latter was an excellent workman, and taught his son that trade, so that he was soon surpassed by his pupil. But Lorenzo took far more pleasure in the art of sculpture and of design, sometimes using colours, and atother times making small figures of bronze, finishing them with much grace, he was also very fond of imitating the dies of antique medals, and made the portraits of many of his friends. Whilst he was working with Bartoluccio and endeavouring to become proficient in that profession, the plague broke out in Florence in the year 1400, as he himself relates in a book he has written upon matters relating to the arts, which is in the possession of the venerable M. Cosimo Bartoli, a nobleman of Florence. In addition to the plague, many civil discords and other troubles were rife in the city, obliging him to leave it, and he set out in company with another painter to the Romagna. At Rimini he painted a chamber for the Sig. Pandolfo Malatesta, and did many other works which were carefully finished, giving great satisfaction to Pandolfo, who, while still a youth, took great delight in matters of design. Lorenzo, however, continued to pursue his study of design, and to work in relief in wax, stucco, and other like things, knowing that such small reliefs are a sculptor's method of drawing, and that without them it is impossible to attain to perfection. He had not been long absent from home when the plague ceased, and the Signoria of Florence and the art of the merchants, seeing that there were a number of excellent artists in sculpture at that time, both foreigners and Florentines, thought that it would be a favourable opportunity to make the other two doors of S. Giovanni, the ancient and principal church of the city, a matter which had frequently been discussed. It was arranged by them that all the masters considered to be the best in Italy should be invited to come to Florence to compete in making bronze panels similar to those which Andrea Pisano had done for the first door. Bartoluccio wrote to inform Lorenzo of this decision, for he was then working at Lesaro, and advised him to return to Florence to show what he could do, that this was an excellent opportunity for him to malce his name and to show his ability, in addition to which he might turn the matter to such advantage that neither of them would need to work any longer at making earrings. The words of Bartoluccio so moved Lorenzo that, despite the favours heaped upon him by Pandolfo, by the painter, and by all the court, Lorenzo obtained leave from that lord to depart, and bid fare-well to the painter, although they were very sorry and reluctant to let him go. Their promises and offers of higher wages availed nothing, for to Lorenzo it seemed worth a thousand years to return to Florence, and he accordingly set out and reached his home in safety. Many foreigners had already arrived and reported themselves to the consuls of the arts. From among them seven masters in all were selected: three Florentines, and the remainder Tuscans. A provision of money was set apart for them, and it was stipulated that within a year each of them should produce, as an example of his skill, a bronze panel of the same size as those of the first door. It was determined that the scene represented should be the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, which was considered to be a good subject in which the masters could grapple with the difficulties of the art, because it comprises a landscape, figures both nude and draped, and animals, while the figures in the foreground might be made in full relief, those in the middle distance in half-relief, and those in the back- ground in bas-relief. The competitors for this work were: Filippo di ser Brunellesco, Donato and Lorenzo di Bartoluccio, Florentines, and Jacopo dalla Quercia of Siena, Niccolo d'Arezzo his pupil, Francesco di Vandabrina, 1 and Simone da Colie, sumamed "of the bronzes," who all promised the consuls to have their panels ready at the appointed time.
They set to work and devoted all their study and diligence, all their strength and knowledge, to surpass each other, keeping what they did‚ close secret, so that they might not light upon the same ideas. Lorenzo alone, who enjoyed the help of Bartoluccio, who made him take great pains and prepare many models before he resolved upon adopting any one of them, continually brought his fellow citizens, and also passing strangers if they understood the trade, to see his work and hear their opinion. By the aid of their criticisms he was enabled to produce a model which was beautifully made and absolutely without a fault. Having shaped his figures and cast the whole in bronze, it proved excellent; and he and his father, Bartoluccio, polished it with such devotion and patience that it was impossible for it to have been better finished. When the time arrived for it to be exhibited in the competition, his panel and those of the other masters were handed over to the art of the merchants to be adjudicated upon. When they came to be examined by the consuls and several other citizens many various opinions were expressed. Numbers of strangers had assembled in Florence, some painters, some sculptors, and some goldsmiths, who were invited by the consuls to come and judge the works in conjunction with others of the same professions who lived in Florence. They numbered thirty-four persons in all, each of them being an adept in his art, and although there were differences of opinion among them, some preferring the style of one and some that of another, yet they were agreed that Filippo di ser Brunellesco and Lorenzo di Bartoluccio had composed and finished a larger number of figures better than Donato had done, although his panel exhibited great powers of design. In that of Jacopo dalla Quercia the figures were good but lacking in delicacy, in spite of the good design and the care bestowed. The work of Francesco di Vandabrina contained good heads and was well finished, but the composition was confused. That of Simone da Colle was a good cast, because he was a founder by profession, but the design was not very good. The production of Niccolo d'Arezzo, 2 showing great skill, was marred by stunted figures and absence of finish. Lorenzo's alone was perfect in every part, and it may still be seen in the audience chamber of the art of the merchants. The whole scene was well designed and the composition excellent, the figures being slender and graceful, the pose admirable and so beautifully finished that it did not look as if it had been cast and polished, but rather as if it had been created by a breath. Donato and Filippo, when they perceived what diligence Lorenzo had devoted to his work, withdrew to one side and agreed that the work ought to be given to him, for it seemed to them that public and private interests would thus be best served, and as Lorenzo was a young man, not past twenty, he would be able to realise in the production of this work the great promise of his beautiful scene, which; according to their judgment, he had made more excellently than the others: adding that it would be more shameful to dispute his right to preeminence than generous to admit it. Accordingly Lorcnzo began on that door opposite the opera of S. Giovanni,' constructing a large wooden frame for a part of it of the exact size he desired, in the shape of a frame with the ornamentation of heads at the angles about the spaces for containing the scenes and the surrounding friezes. After he had made the mould and dried it with all diligence, he set up a huge furnace, which I remember having seen, and filled the frame with metal. He did this in some premises he had bought opposite S. Maria Nuova, where the hospital of the weavers, known as the Threshing-fioor, now stands. But realising that all was not going well, he did not lose courage or become distracted, but traced the cause of the disorder and altered his mould with great quickness without anyone knowing it, recasting the world, which came out most successfully. He went on similarly with the rest of the work, casting each scene separately, and then putting them in their appointed places. The division of the scenes was similar to that adopted by Andrea Pisano in the first door designed for him by Giotto.
He represented twenty scenes from the New Testament, and beneath these he left eight spaces. Beginning from the bottom he made the four Evangelists, two on each door, and then four Doctors of the church, similarly arranged, differing from each other in their attitudes and draperies; one writing, one reading, the others reflecting, and in their varied expressions they are very life-like and excellently made. In the framework about t‚he scenes is a border of ivy leaves and other things, which are set in the framework, and at each corner is the head of a man or a woman in full relief, representing prophets and sibyls, all very good in their variety, and displaying the excellence of Lorenzo's genius. Above the Doctors and Evangelists already mentioned, beginning from the bottom on the side nearest S. Maria dei Fiore, there are four pictures, the first an Annunciation, in which the attitude of the Virgin exhibits terror and sudden fear as she gracefully turns herself at the coming of the angel. Next to this he made the birth of Christ, Our Lady lying down and resting while Joseph is contemplating the shepherds and angels who are singing. On the other side from this, and on the other part of the door, but on the same level, is the story of the coming of the Magi and adoration of Christ, giving Him tribute, comprising the court which followed them with horses and equipments, made with great skill. Next to this is Christ disputing in the Temple with the doctors, where the wonder and attention of the doctors who are listening to him are no less finely expressed than the joy of Mary and Joseph at finding Him again. Returning to the other end, over the Annunciation is the scene of the baptism of Christ in the Jordan by John, the postures of the figures exhibiting the reveience of the one and the faith of the other. Beside this is the temptation of Christ by the devil, who is terrified by the words of Jesus, and is in an attitude expressive of his fear, recognizing that He is the Son of God. Next to this, on the other part, is Christ driving out the changers from the Temple, overthrowing their money, victims for sacrifice, doves, and other merchandise, where the figures of some men who are falling over each other in their flight are very graceful and well imagined. Next to this Lorenzo put the shipwreck of the Apostles, where Peter leaves the boat and is sinking in the water, while Christ upholds him. This scene is remarkable for the varied attitudes of the Apostles who are at work in the ship, and the faith of Peter is expressed by his coming towards Christ. Returning to the other end once again, over the Baptism is the transfiguration on Mount Tabor, where Lorenzo expresses in the attitude of the Apostles the bedazzlement experienced by mortal eyes at the heavenly vision: Christ is displayed in His divinity between Moses and Elias, holding His head high and His arms open. Beside this is the resurrection of Lazarus, who emerges from the tomb bound hand and foot, and stands up right to the astonishment of the spectators. Martha is there and Mary Magdalene, who is kissing the feet of the Lord with the utmost humility and reverence. Next to this, on the other part, is the entry into Jerusalem on an ass, while the children of the Hebrews, in varied attitudes, throw down their garments, olive branches and palms, and the Apostles are following the Saviour. Beside this is a very fine Last Supper very well arranged, as the Apostles are seated round a long table, half of them being on one side and half on the other. Over the Transfiguration he made the Agony in the Garden, where the three Apostles may be observed sleeping in various attitudes. Next to this is Christ receiving the kiss of Judas, where there are many noteworthy things, the Apostles running away, and the Jews represented as taking Christ, with great vigour. On the other part is Christ bound to the column, His face somewhat distorted with the pain of the scourging and in a compassionable attitude, while the Jews who are scourging Him show their terrible rage and vindictive feeling.
Following this is the scene when He is brought before Pilate, who washes his hands and sentences Him to the cross. Over the Agony in the Garden and in the last row of scenes is Christ carrying the cross and going to His death, led by a fierce band of soldiers who are dragging him along with rough gestures. Grief and weeping are expressed in the gestures of the Maries, so that had one been present it would not have been possible to realise the scene better. Besides this Lorenzo made Christ on the cross, with Our Lady and St. John the Evangelist seated on the ground in attitudes full of grief and indignation. Next to this, on the other part, is the Resurrection, the guards overcome by the thunder stand like dead men, while Christ is ascending in an attitude which has all the attributes of glorification in the perfection of His beautiful members, created by the skilful industry of Lorenzo. The last space contains the coming of the Holy Spirit, the attitudes and expectancy of those who receive it being exquisite. No time or labour was spared to make the work perfect. The limbs of the nude figures are most beautiful in every part, and although the draperies still possess something of the old-fashioned style of Giotto, yet the general tendency is towards the modern manner, and figures of this particular size possess a certain delicate gracefulness. In fine, the composition of the various scenes is so well managed that it deserves the praise originally accorded by Filippo, and even more. From his Fellow-citizens Lorenzo obtained the most complete recognition of his labours, and won the highest praise from them and from all artists, both native and foreign. The entire work cost 22,000 florins, including the outside ornamentation, which is also of metal, and the festoons of fruit and animals carved there. The metal doors weighed 34,000 pounds. When the work was completed, the consuls of the art of the merchants felt that they had been very well served, and, as everyone praised Lorenzo, they pro posed that he should make a bronze statue four and a half braccia high in memory of St. John the Baptist for the exterior of Or san Michele, in the niche belonging to the cloth dressers. Accordingly he began this, and never rested until he had finished it. The work has been much admired, and the artist put his name to it on the hem of the robe; it was set up in the year 1414, and shows an approach towards the good modern style in the head, in an arm, which looks as if it was actual flesh, and in the hands and the whole attitude of the figure. He was the first to begin to imitate the masterpieces of the ancient Romans, studying them very carefully, as everyone should who wishes to become a good craftsman. For the frontispiece of the niche he made an experiment in mosaic, introducing a half-figure of a prophet. Lorenzo's fame had already spread through all Italy and beyond as the most skilful modern founder. Accordingly, when Jacopo dalla Fonte and Vecchietto of Sien 3 and Donato were required to decorate the Baptist cry of S. Giovanni with some scenes and figures in bronze, and as the Sienese had seen Lorenzo's work in Florence, they negotiated with him and employed him to make two scenes of the life of St. John the Baptist. One of them is the baptism of Christ, comprising a quantity of nude and draped figures, very richly wrought, and the other John before Llerod. In these scenes Lorenzo surpassed and vanquished the other artists there, and accordingly he received great praise from the Sienese and from others who saw them. The masters of the mint at Florence had to make a statue for one of the niches outside or. S. Michele, opposite the art of wool, which was to be a St. Matthew of the same height as the St. John mentioned above. 4 They allotted the task to Lorenzo, who executed it to perfection, and received more praise for it than for his St. John, because it was more modern in style. This induced the consuls of the art of wool to propose that he should make another statue, also of, etah in the next niche, which should be of the same size as the others, and represent their patron, St. Stephen. 5 This he also completed, giving a fine polish to the bronze, so that it afforded no less satisfaction than his other works. At this time Maestro Leonardo Dati 6 was general of the Friars Preachers, and in order to leave a memorial of himself to his native place, in S. Maria Novella, where he had professed, he employed Lorenzo to make a bronze tomb surmounted by his effigy in the attitude of death. The praise accorded to this work led to Lorenzo being employed to make one in S. Croce for Ludovico degli Albizzi and one for Niccolo Valori. 7 After these things Cosimo and Lorenzo de' Medici, wishing to honour the bodies and relics of the three martyrs Prothus, Hyacinth and Nemesius, had them fetched from Casentino, where they had remained for many years in slight esteem and employed Lorenzo to make a metal shrine,& in the middle of which are two angels in bas-relief, holding a garland of olive branches encircling the names of the martyrs. The relics were deposited in this shrine, and placed in the church of the monastery of the Angeli at Florence, with these words carved in marble on the side towards the church of the monks:
Clarissimi viri Cosmas et Laurentiusfratres neglectas diu Sanctorum reliquias martyrum religioso studio acfidelissima pietate suis sumptibus aereis loculis condendascolendasque curarunt.
On the outer side, where the little church faces the street, are these words carved in the marble beneath a coat of arms with the balls:
Hic condita sunt corpora sanctorum Christimartyrum Prothiet Hyacinthi et Nemesii.Ann. Dom. 1428.
This having proved so successful, the wardens ardens of S. Maria del Fiore became desirous of having a sarcophagus and tomb of metal constructed to receive the body of St. Zanobius, bishop of Florence, of the dimensions of three and a half braccia by two. 8 Besides the decoration of divers ornaments, Lorenzo made a scene on the body of the tomb representing the incident where the saint raises the child left in his custody by its mother; and who had died during her absence on a pilgrimage. The second scene is of another child, killed by a cart and raised by the saint, who also raises one of the two servants sent to him by St. Ambrose, who was left dead on the Alps, the other sorrowing in the presence of St. Zanobius, who is comforting him and saying, "He is sleeping; go and you will find him alive.' At the back are six small angels, holding a garland of elm leaves, on which are carved some sentences in praise of the saint. This work was carried out and completed with every industry and art, so that it received extraordinary praise as a beautiful thing. While the works of Lorenzo were increasing his reputation every day, and he was engaged upon work in silver and gold as well as bronze for numberless individuals, there came into the possession of Giovanni, the son of Cosimo de' Medici, a large cornelian carved with the flaying of Mars as by Apollo. It was said to have been used by the Emperor Nero as a seal. As the stone was large, and very valuable for its size and the wonderful carving on it, Giovanni gave it to Lorenzo to make a mount of wrought gold for it. The artist laboured at it for many months, surrounding this beautiful work with a carved ornamentation no less perfect than the carving on the stone itself. This event led him to do many more things in gold and silver, which are no longer to be found. For Pope Martin he made a gold fastening for his cope, with figures in full relief and jewels of great price among them, a most excellent piece of work. He also made a mitre, marvellously chased with gold leaves and many small figures in full relief in the midst, which was considered very beautiful, and besides the fame which he acquired he benefited considerably owing to the liberality of the Pope. In the year 1439 Pope Eugenius came to Florence to unite the Greek and Latin churches and to hold a Council. When he saw Lorenzo's works he was equally delighted with hem and with the artist himself. Accordingly he employed Lorenzo to make a gold mitre for him, weighing fifteen pounds, with pearls weighing live and a half pounds, the whole, including the jewels, being valued at 30,000 gold ducats. It is said that there were six pearls like filbert nuts, and it is impossible to imagine the curious beauty of the setting of the jewels in a variety of children and other figures, forming a very graceful ornamentation as shown by the design for it. For this work Lorenzo received most hearty thanks from the pontiff for himself and his friends, besides the first payment.
Florence had acquired such celebrity by the works of the most ingenious artist that the consuls of the art of the merchants determined to assign to him the third door of S. Giovanni, to be likewise made in metal. In the case of the first door Lorenzo had, by their direction, carried out the ornamentation which surrounds the figures and binds together the framework, like that of Andrea Pisano. But now the consuls, recognising how greatly Lorenzo had excelled him, resolved to move the middle door, which was Andrea's, and to put it up opposite the Misericordia, and to employ Lorenzo to make new doors for the middle, judging that he would devote his utmost energies to the task. 9 They left the whole matter in his hands, saying that they gave him full liberty to do as he pleased and that he should make it as ornamental, rich, perfect and beautiful as he possibly could, or as could be imagined, without regard to time or expense, and that as he had surpassed all the other figure- makers up to that time, he should in this work surpass himself.
Lorenzo began his task, lavishing upon it the very best of his powers. He divided the door into ten squares; five on each side, the spaces left for the scenes being a braccia and a third in size. In the ornamentation of the framework surrounding the scenes are uplight niches containing figures in almost full relief to the number of twenty, and all very beautiful, such as a nude Samson embracing a column and holding a jaw-bone in his hand, displaying the highest degree of perfection attained by the ancients in their figures of Hercules, whether of bronze or of marble; as does a Joshua who is in the act of speaking to his army. Besides these, there are many prophets and sibyls dressed in various styles of draperies, and with varied arrangements of their heads, hair and other ornaments, as well as twelve recumbent figures in the niches in the transverse parts of the frame. At the corners he made circles containing heads of women, youths and old men, to the n‚umber of thirty-four, 10 introducing his own portrait in the middle of the door, near the place where he has inscribed his name. The older main beside in, is his father, Bartoluccio‚ In addition to the heads he made foliage, mouldings and other ornaments with the greatest mastery. The scenes represented on the door are taken from the Old Testament. The first represents the creation of Adam and of Eve his wife, most perfectly executed, showing that Lorenzo did his utmost to render their members as beautiful as possible, for he wished to show that they were the most lovely creatures that ever issued from the hand of God; and that they surpassed everything which He had made in His other works. In the same scene he represented them eating the apple and being driven together out of Paradise, the figures in this act exhibiting the first effect of their sin, as they are conscious of their shame and cover it with their hands, while they show their penitence when they are being expelled from Paradise by the angel. In the second square are Adam and Eve with Cain and Abel as little children; there also is Abel's sacrifice of the first fruits with Cain's less acceptable offering, in which Cain's gestures are expressive of envy towards his brother, and Abel's of love to God. A singularly beautiful incident here is Cain ploughing with a pair of oxen, very true and natural in their labour of drawing the plough with the yoke. A fine figure also is that of Abel slain by Cain as he is keeping the sheep. This last action exhibits the cruel and pitiless brother slaying Abel with a club, so remarkable that the very bronze shows the lassitude of the dead members of Abel's beautiful person. In the distance in bas-relief is God asking Cain, "Where is thy brother?" four scenes being combined to form each picture. In the third space Lorenzo made Noah coming out of the ark with his wife, sons, daughters and daughters-in-law, and all the animals, both birds and beasts, which are carved each one after its Kind, with the greatest perfection that is allowed to art in the imitation of Nature, the ark being seen open, and the general desolation is represented in very low relief with inexpressible grace. The figures of Noah and his sons are represented with wonderful vivacity as he is offering the sacrifice, and in the sky appears the rainbow, the token of peace between God and Noah. But more excellent than the others is the scene where he plants the vine and exposes himself in his drunkenness, while his son Ham mocks him. Indeed, it would not be possible to represent a sleeping man better, in the abandonment of his intoxication, or the consideration and affection, displayed in admirable gestures, of his other two sons, who are covering him. Here also may be seen the vine, the cask, and other implements for making wine, introduced with such skill that they form no impediment to the story, but constitute a beautiful ornament. For the fourth scene Lorenzo chose the appearance of the three angels in the plain of Mamre, making them all alike, while the holy old man is adoring them with most appropriate and realistic expressions in the face and hands. Very excellent also are the servants waiting at the foot of the mountain to which Abraham has gone to sacrifice his son. Isaac is standing naked on the altar, and his father is endeavouring to obey the Divine command, with his arm raised, but is hindered by the angel, who detains him with one hand while with the other he points to the ram which is to be offered, thus delivering Isaac from death. This scene is really remarkably fine, there being a striking contrast between the delicate limbs of Isaac and the more robust ones of the servants, and not a stroke of the scene but has been represented with the most consummate art. In this work, in dealing with the difficulty of buildings, Lorenzo surpassed himself, and also in the scene of the birth of Isaac, and of Jacob and Esau, when the latter is hunting‚to do his father's will, and Jacob, instructed by Rebecca, is offering the roast kid, while wearing its skin about his neck, which Isaac is feeling, and giving him his blessing. This scene contains some remarkably fine and life-like dogs, and the expressions of Jacob, Isaac and Rebecca in their various actions are exceedingly good. Emboldened by the study of his art, which gave him ever greater facility, Lorenzo essayed to do things more difficult and ambitious, such as the sixth scene, when Joseph is thrown into a pit by his brethren, their sale of him to the merchants, their present of him to Pharaoh, his interpretation of the dream of the famine, the provision to meet this, and the honours accorded to Joseph by Pharaoh. Similarly also in the scenes where Jacob sends his sons to obtain in Egypt, and their return to their father after being recognised by Joseph. In this work Lorenzo attempted a difficult task in the representation of a round temple in perspective, containing figures in various fashions carrying corn and flout, and many asses. Here also is the banquet given by Joseph to his brethren, the hiding of the gold cup in Benjamin's sack, the finding of it, and his recognition of his brothers and his affectionate embraces. This scene, on account of the expressions and the variety of incidents which it contains; is considered by all to be the ablest, the most difficult, and the finest in the whole work.
It is certain that it was impossible for Lorenzo, seeing his skill and grace with this type of statue, not to make the most beautiful figures when thinking out the composition of his admirable scenes. This appears in the seventh panel, where he represents Mount Sinai and Moses on the summit, kneeling reverently and receiving the laws from God. Half-way up the mountain Joshua is awaiting him, and at the foot the people are represented with wonderful truth in divers attitudes of terror at the thunder, lightning and earthquakes. He afterwards displayed great diligence and loving care in the eighth panel, which represents Joshua going to Jericho, Crossing the Jordan, pitching the twelve tents filled with the twelve tribes, all very naturally; but the finest part is the bas-relief of the procession with the ark round the walls of the city to the blowing of trumpets, with the fall of the walls and the capture of the city by the Jews. Here the relief diminishes most carefully, from the figures in the foreground to the mountains, from the mountains to the city, and from the City to the distant landscape, all executed with the most perfect grace. And as Lorenzo daily became more expert in his art, the ninth panel shows the slaying of the giant Goliath, David cutting off his head in a proud, boyish attitude, the rout of the army of the Philistines by the host of God, with their horses, chariots and other implements of war. After that he made David returning with the head of Goliath in his hand, the people meeting him with music and dancing, the expressions being all appropriate and full of life. In the tenth and last scene it remained for Lorenzo to put forth all his powers. Here the Queen of Sheba visits Solomon with an immense escort. In this scene he introduced a building in perspective with great effect, the figures resembling those in the other scenes. There is also the ornamentation of the architraves which surround the door, made up of fruit and festoons of the same high level of excellence. The entire work, in detail and as a whole, is a striking example of what may be accomplished by the skill and energy of a sculptor-artist in dealing with figures, some practically in relief, some in half-relief, and some in bas-relief, in invention and the composition of figures, and in the striking attitudes of the women and men, the variety of the buildings, the perspectives, the graceful comportment of both sexes, with a well-regulated sense of decorum, gravity in the old and lightness and grace in the young. Indeed, the doors may be said to be perfect in every particular, the finest masterpiece in the world whether among the ancients or the moderns. Right well does Lorenzo merit praise, for one day Michelagnolo Buonarrotti stopped to look at the work, and on being asked his opinion he said, "They are so fine that they would grace the entrance of Paradise," a truly noble encomium pronounced by one well able to judge. Lorenzo certainly deserved his success, for he began them at the age of twenty and laboured at them with more than ordinary exertion for over forty years.
In polishing and cleaning this work after it was cast Lorenzo was assisted by many youths who afterwards became famous masters, such as Filippo Brunelleschi, Masolino da Panicale, 11 Niccolo Laniberti, goldsmiths, Parri Spinehi, Antonio Filareto, I'aolo Uccello, Antoniodel Pollaiuolo, then quite young, and by many others who were engaged together upon the same task, and by means of this association and mutual conference they benefited themselves no less than Lorenzo. Besides the payment which Lorenzo received from the consuls, the Signoria gave him a considerable property near the alley of Settimo, and it was not long before he was admitted to the Signory and thus received the honour of entering the chief magistracy of the city. The Florentines deserve praise for their gratitude to this man, just as they merit blame for their ingratitude to many other excellent fellow-citizens. After this stupendous work, Lorenzo made the bronze ornamentation for the door of the same church which is opposite the Misericordia, introducing his marvelous foliage, but was unable to finish this on account of his unexpected death, after he had arranged everything and all but finished the model for the reconstruction of that door which Andrea Pisano had made. This model has fared badly in these days, but I saw it when I was a young man in the Borgo Allegri before it had been allowed to goto ruin by Lorenzo's descendants.
Lorenzo had a son called Bonaccorso, 12 who finished the frieze and ornamentation which had been left incomplete, with great diligence, a decoration which I clam, to be the rarest and most marvellous work in bronze in existence. He did not produce many works, as he died young, though he might have done much, seeing that he inherited the secret of casting things so as to preserve their delicacy, and he possessed the experience and knowledge necessary for perforating the metal in the manner adopted by Lorenzo. This master, besides works by his own hand, bequeathed to his heirs many antiques of marble and of bronze, such as the bed of Policletes, which was a rare treasure, a bronze leg of life-size, and some heads of women and men, with a quantity of vases, for which he had sent to Greece at a great expense. He also left some torsos and many other things, which were dissipated like his property, some being sold to M. Giovanni Gaddi, some time clerk of the chamber. Among these was the bed of Policletes and the other more valuable articles. Bonaccorso left a son called Vettorio, who devoted himself to sculpture, but with little profit, as is proved by the heads which he made in the palace of the Duke of Gravina at Naples, which are not very good, for he never practised the art with affection and diligence, but allowed the property and other things left him by his father and grand- father to go to rack and ruin. Finally, one night he was slain by his servant, 13 who wished to rob him, as he was going to Ascoli as architect for Pope Paul III. Thus the family died out, though the fame of Lorenzo will endure for ever.
But to return to Lorenzo. He took an interest in many things and delighted in painting on glass. In S. Maria del Fiore he made the circular windows round the cupola, except one by the hand of Donato, representing Christ crowning the Virgin. Dorenzo also made the three rose windows over the principal door of the same church, and all those of the chapels and the tribunes, as well as that in the facade of S. Croce. In Arezzo he made a window for the principal chapel of the Pieve, representing a Coronation of the Virgin and two other figures for Lazzaro di Feo di Baccio, a wealthy merchant. But as all these were made of highly coloured Venetian glass they rather tend to darken the places where they are placed. Lorenzo was appointed to be the associate of Brunellesco when the latter was charged with the construction of the cupola of S. Maria del Fiore, but was afterwards removed, as I shall describe in Filippo's life. Lorenzo wrote a work in the vulgar tongue' treating of many things, but so that little profit can be derived from it. The only good thing that it contains, in my opinion, comes after the description of the ancient painters, particularly those cited by Pliny, where he makes a brief mention of Cimabue, Giotto, and many others of that time, and he has treated this much more briefly than he should, and that for no better reason than to discourse at length about himself and to describe minutely one by one the works which he produced. I must add that he intimates that the book was written by others; but later on, like one who is more accustomed to design, chisel and to found metal than to spin stories, in speaking of himself, he uses the first person I did, 14 said, and so forth. Having at length attained the sixty-forth year of his life, he was attacked by a violent and continuous fever and died, leaving an immortal fame in his works and in the descriptions of writers. He was buried honourably in S. Croce. His portrait is on the principal door of S. Giovanni, in the middle border when the door is shut, being represented as bald, his father, Bartoluccio, being next him, and near them the following words may be read:
Lautrentii Cionis de Ghibertis mira arte fabricatum.
Lorenzo's designs were excellent and made with great relief, as may be seen in our book of designs, in an Evangelist by his hand, and some other very fine works in chiaroscuro. Bartoluccio, his father, also designed very fairly, as is shown by another Evangelist by his hand in the same‚book, though perceptibly inferior to Lorenzo's. I had these designs, together with some by Giotto, from Vettorio Ghiberti in the year 1528, while I was still quite young, and I have always valued them highly on account of their excellence and in memory of such great men. If I had known what I now know, I might easily have had many other remarkably fine things which belonged to Lorenzo, at the time when I was an intimate friend of Vettorio and had constant relations with him. Among many verses in Datin and in the vulgar tongue which have been composed in honour of Lorenzo at various times, I select the following, which will make a fitting conclusion and spare the reader the annoyance of further quotations:
Dum cernit valvas aurato ex aere nitentes In templo Michael Angelus, obstupuit Attonitusquc diu, sic alta silentia rupit; O divinum opus! 0 janua digna polo!1 Rectius Valdambrino.2 Commissioned 23 November, 1403, completed 20 April, 1424.3 Commissioned 1417, finished 1427.4 Commissioned 1459, setup 1542.5 In 1425.6 Who died in 1423.7 Now in the Bargello, Florence.8 Finished 1446.9 Commissioned 2 January, 1425, set up 1452.10 There are four recumbent figures and twenty-four heads.11 He was not a pupil. Vasari has confused him with Maso diCristofano.12 Bonaccorso was his grandson, son of Vittorio.13 In 1442.14 His Commentarii remained in manuscript until 1813 when it was printed in Cicognara's "Storia della Scultura," published at Venice.Vasari has used it freely for the earlier- lives.