(b Florence, 1378; d Florence, 1 Dec 1455).
Bronze-caster, sculptor, goldsmith, draughtsman, architect and writer.
He was the most celebrated bronze-caster and goldsmith in early
15th-century Florence, and his many-sided activity makes him the first
great representative of the universal artist of the Renaissance. His
richly decorative and elegant art, which reached its most brilliant
expression in the Gates of Paradise (Florence, Baptistery), did not
break dramatically with the tradition of Late Gothic, yet Ghiberti was
undoubtedly one of the great creative personalities of early Renaissance
art; no contemporary artist had so deep an influence on the art and
sculpture of later times. His art, in which idealism and realism are
fused, reflects the discovery of Classical art as truly as the realism
of Donatello, and to label Ghiberti a traditionalist is to define the
Renaissance art of the early 15th century one-sidedly in terms of
increased realism. His competition relief of the Sacrifice of Isaac
(1401; Florence, Bargello) determined the development of low relief not
only in the 15th century but through the stylistic periods of Mannerism
and Baroque, and up until the work of Rodin in the 19th century.
Ghiberti’s writings, I commentarii, which include his
autobiography, established him as the first modern historian of the fine
arts, and bear witness to his ideal of humanistic education and culture.
He was wealthier than most of his contemporary artists, and he owned
considerable land and securities.