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Past Exhibitions


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The Gates of Paradise: Lorenzo Ghiberti's Renaissance Masterpiece

Sat Jan 26 – Sun Apr 6 2008

Seattle Art Museum

Third Floor Galleries

Watch the premiere broadcast of Seattle Channel's Artzone, featuring The Gates of Paradise (3:57 into the video).

Michelangelo is credited with dubbing them “the gates of paradise,” and sixteenth-century artist and writer Giorgio Vasari called them “the finest masterpiece ever created, either in ancient or modern times.” Three stunning panels from Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, one of the most celebrated works of the Italian Renaissance, will be on view at SAM Downtown. This exhibition marks the first time that the gilded bronze panels have traveled to the United States since their creation over 550 years ago. Generations of admirers have praised the monumental doors of the Florence baptistery for their compelling portrayal of scenes from the Old Testament and their innovative treatment of architectural space.

The Gates of Paradise exhibition will present the three panels within the context of their 25 years of restoration, nearly as long as it took Ghiberti to create the work. After five centuries of use, exposure to weather and pollution, and human contact, the doors were manifesting the ravages of time—their surfaces corroded and gilt finish dulled. During the restoration, researchers made major new discoveries about the history and consummate craftsmanship of the doors, ultimately revealing the lustrous gold surface that had been obscured over time. The exhibition will give insight into Ghiberti’s work and his development as an artist.

SAM is privileged to provide our community this rare viewing opportunity. After they tour four cities in the United States, including Seattle, the panels will return to Florence to be reassembled within the original doors and kept in an oxygen-free environment at the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, never to leave Florence again.

The Gates of Paradise: Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Renaissance Masterpiece is organized by the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, in collaboration with the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence. The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities and by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, which believes that a great nation deserves great art. The Seattle Art Museum’s presentation of this exhibition is made possible in part by a Leadership Grant from the Robert Lehman Foundation, Inc. Generous sponsorship provided by PONCHO, the Seattle Art Museum Supporters (SAMS), The Seattle Times, and King 5 Television. Additional support provided by Rosa Ayer, The John C. & Karyl Kay Hughes Foundation, The MacRae Foundation, Sally & Bill Neukom, the Offield Family Foundation, Mr. & Mrs. Douglas Scheumann, Schnitzer West, Ann P. Wyckoff, and contributors to the Annual Fund.
Creation Panel, Gates of Paradise (detail), 1425–1452, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Italian, ca. 1381–1455, gilt bronze, 31 1/2 x 31 1/2 in., Collection of the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Image courtesy Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence, Panels photographed by Antonio Quattrone / ARTstor