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There is no doubt that those in every city who by their merits obtain fame become a blessed light to those who are born after them. For there is nothing that arouses the minds of men, and makes them indifferent to the hardships of study, so much as the thought of the honour and advantage that the labour may bring them. This Lorenzo di Cione Ghiberti, otherwise Di Bartoluccio, knew well. He in his first years was put to the art of the goldsmith, but delighting more in the arts of sculpture and design, he studied colours and also cast little figures in bronze. About this time the Signory of Florence, with the Guild of the Merchants, seeing that there were at that time many excellent sculptors, both Florentines and strangers, determined that they would make the second pair of gates for S. Giovanni, the oldest and the chief church of that city. So they called upon all the best masters in Italy to come to Florence and make trial of their skill, requiring them to produce a subject picture worked in bronze, like one of those which Andrea Pisano had made in the first gate. Bartoluccio Ghiberti thereupon wrote to Lorenzo his son, who was then working in Pesaro, urging him to return to Florence, for this was an opportunity of making himself known and showing his skill. These words so moved Lorenzo that although Pandolfo Malatesti and all his court were heaping him with caresses, and would scarcely let him go, he took his leave of them, and neither promise nor reward would detain him, for it seemed to him to be a thousand years before he could get to Florence. So setting forth he came safely to his own city. Many strangers had already arrived and made known their coming to the consuls of the guild. They made choice of seven, three being Florentines and the rest Tuscans, ordaining for them a certain provision of money, and requiring that within a year each one should finish one subject in bronze of the same size as those of the first gate. And the subject was Abraham sacrificing Isaac his son, for they thought that it contained all the difficulties of the art, landscape, figures nude and draped, and animals. Those who took part in the contest were Filippo di Ser Brunellesco, Donatello, and Lorenzo, all Florentines; and Jacopo...

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Category:   Artists

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