Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise

A massive pair of monumental bronze doors from the Italian Renaissance will be on view this fall in the Bloch Building. Installing a work of art of this scale is a complex engineering project that requires a flexible schedule. (The opening date was incorrectly listed previously, and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.) We ask for your patience until the installation is complete.

The 17-foot-tall gilded doors, weighing 4 1/2 tons, are casts of the original doors created in the 15th-century workshop of sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti for the east facade of the Baptistery of the Duomo (cathedral) in Florence, Italy.

The doors consist of 10 richly decorated, sculptural panels depicting scenes from the Old Testament, including God’s creation of Adam and Eve, Abraham’s near-sacrifice of Isaac, and Moses on the mountain, receiving God’s commandments. Surrounding the panels is an intricate, gilt framework of foliage and fruit that contains many statuettes of prophets and 24 busts.

Ghiberti’s original doors can be found inside the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo di Santa Maria del Fiore. Casts were made in 1990, and a set was installed on the outside of the Baptistery in Florence.

The pair at the Nelson-Atkins are a sister set to those at the Baptistery. The installation in the Nelson-Atkins will be the first time the casts will be seen in a U.S. museum.

The doors are a promised gift from Paul DeBruce and Linda Woodsmall-DeBruce.

History of the Doors

The Baptistery in Florence, Italy is renowned for its three sets of spectacular bronze doors lavishly decorated with relief sculptures. Andrea Pisano created the first set of doors in the 14th century. In 1401, Lorenzo Ghiberti won a competition to design a set of doors for the north side. Ghiberti spent 21 years (1401-1422) creating a pair of gilded bronze doors that depict scenes from Jesus’s life.

In 1425, Ghiberti, by then widely recognized as the most accomplished sculptor in Florence, received a second commission to design the east doors of the Baptistery, on which he and his workshop toiled for 27 years (1425-1452).

The original gates adorned the Baptistery for nearly 500 years until there was an urgent need to protect them from the bombing by the Nazis during World War II. Before they were reinstalled in 1954, gypsum molds were made that were archived for future use. In 1990, the original doors were moved inside the Museo dell’Opera to protect and preserve the doors.