From 1433 to 1439, Donatello worked on this choir loft (348 x 570 x 98 cm) - considered one of the masterpieces of the early Renaissance – with difficulty because the side of the Old Sacristy - nicknamed the ‘Canons’ - was always in darkness.
Three figures are around Christ: to his right Mary Magdalene, who occupies the position assigned by the traditional iconography to the Madonna; in the center, on the top, Nicodemus, the converted Pharisee who witnessed the burial of Jesus and here also represents the portrait of Michelangelo; on the left, the Virgin. The body of Christ slides downward in a way that is emphasized through the twisting of the torso and the broken movement of the leg.
Considered to be the work that ushered the Renaissance in Florence, the North Doors (1403–1424) were the second set to be produced for the Baptistry, after the ones made by Andrea Pisano (1330–1336) and before the Gates of Paradise (1425–1452).
The same monumental size as the Gates of Paradise, the North Doors are nearly 10 feet wide and 16 feet high. Each of the 2 doors weigh over four tons, a total of nine.
According to Giorgio Vasari the door—once known just as the East Door—was named the Gates of Paradise by Michelangelo because of its striking beauty. It took Ghiberti 27 years to make the gilded bronze doors, and when the commissioning guild saw them, their beauty was such that it was decided to place them in the place of honour, on the east side facing the Cathedral – the Paradisium.
The doors weigh 8 tons and stand more than 17 feet high, 10 feet wide and 4 inches thick. The doors will be placed inside a glass case specially designed, and will then be moved to a permanent home in the new museum currently under construction.
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