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Current time:0:00Total duration:5:25

Video transcript

we're in the Bargello in Florence we're looking at the so-called competition panels our historians often see this as the beginning of the renaissance in 1401 the cloth guild of florence decided to commission a second set of doors for the baptistry of florence there are three doorways in the baptistry the first set of doors had been made by Andrea Pisano in the 14th century and the cloth guild wanted to create a second set of doors these were enormous bronze doors and this was a huge civic undertaking and extremely expensive the baptistry is historically the most important building in florence in an effort to find the best sculptor the cloth guild held a competition the only two that survive of the seven entries are by Brunelleschi and gibberty the cloth guild when they held this competition were very specific about what they wanted and they allocated a certain amount of bronze they told the sculptors they had to sculpt the Old Testament subject of the sacrifice of Isaac they dictated the number of figures and what should be included the only other thing that I remember that the cloth guild actually dictated was that all the panel's had to be contained within a quatrefoil that is this gothic shape it's really fun to look at both of these panels and think about why the guild chose the one they did and which one is better and for what reasons in the story God commands Abraham to kill his only son Isaac to sacrifice Isaac now you have to remember that Abraham went for a very long time in his life with no children and so his son meant everything to his son was a miracle now God is commanding him to murder his son and Abraham is taking God's Word very seriously this is a moment of crisis a moment of faith will he allow everything in his life to be subservient to God's will so Abraham takes Isaac to the mountain where God has told him to go and takes a knife to Isaac's throat and is about to kill his son when an angel appears and stops him God provides a ram instead for Abraham to sacrifice so Isaac is spared and Abraham spared this terrible fate of having to slay his only son I'm particularly fond for the way that angel flies in in both panels to save the day in the ghiberti it's far less dramatic we have a angel foreshortened coming out towards us but in Brunelleschi's version the angel is grasping Abraham's hand and literally stopping him at the very moment when the knife meets Isaac's throat there's also a kind of intensity with Isaac's edie pushed back by Abraham and so there's a kind of violence that seems to be in process in the ghiberti it's interesting the angel is separate there isn't the same continuity of form I think there's more complexity in ghiberti's emotionally Abraham looks reluctant this isn't something he wants to do he's pulled the knife back he's looking at Isaac but there's a sense of unwillingness it's like a second of pausing because of this terrible thing that he's been commanded to do it's interesting that the gibberty it shows us a full nude and presents that new to us in the most direct way whereas the Brunelleschi is up on one knee has a glowing cloth and is twisted and distorted as opposed to this classicizing beauty that we see in the goober t it's a direct quote from ancient Greek and Roman sculpture and it's really very beautifully done there's also an interesting corollary in both panels in terms of the physical relationship of the father and son in the goober tree you have the gentle arcing whereas in the Brunelleschi you have a diagonal which is more energized and the more violent as well me the Brunelleschi is a little scarier it is scary well apparently the Guild's agreed there's no written record why they chose what they did that's right but ultimately was good Bertie who got the Commission although some accounts say that they both won but goober tea actually was chosen to carry out the Commission in the gioberti you have that rocky mountain that unifies the sea it seems to flow down almost like water from the upper left to the lower right there's a in the Brunelleschi more of separate parts being assembled and in fact Brunelleschi cast many of the parts of this separately and then put them together and the gioberti is cast only from two pieces of bronze there may have been one other element that helped to sway the decision and that is that you Bertie used less bronze than Brunelleschi and remember bronze is extremely expensive and when you multiply this through all of the panels of the door that would have been significant in any case in the end ghiberti gets the commission produces the doors and they are such a triumph that he's ultimately commissioned to produce a third set of doors and Brunelleschi will take this opportunity to move beyond sculpture go to Rome and study ancient Roman architecture and ancient Roman sculpture he'll of course come back to Florence triumphant ultimately with major commissions like the dome you