From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Ghiberti was born in Florence. His father was Bartoluccio Ghiberti, a trained artist and goldsmith, who trained his son in the gold trade. Lorenzo Ghiberti then went to work in the workshop of Bartoluccio de Michele, where Brunelleschi also got his training. When the bubonic plague struck Florence in 1400, Ghiberti emigrated to Romagna, where he assisted in the completion of wall frescoes of the castle of Carlo I Malatesta.
Ghiberti first became famous when he won the 1401 competition for the first set of bronze doors for the Baptistery of the cathedral in Florence. Brunelleschi was the runner up. The original plan was for the doors to depict scenes from the Old Testament, and the trial piece was the sacrifice of Isaac. However, the plan was changed to depict scenes from the New Testament, instead.
To carry out this commission, he set up a large workshop in which many artists trained, including Donatello, Masolino, Michelozzo, Uccello, and Antonio Pollaiuolo. Ghiberti had re-invented the lost-wax casting (cire perdute) of bronze-casting as it was used by the ancient Romans. This made his workshop so special to young artists.
When his first set of twenty-eight panels was complete, Ghiberti was commissioned to produce a second set for another doorway in the church, this time with scenes from the Old Testament, as originally intended for his first set. Instead of twenty-eight scenes, he produced ten rectangular scenes in a completely different style. They were more naturalistic, with perspective and a greater idealization of the subject. Michelangelo dubbed these scenes the "Gates of Paradise." "The Gates of Paradise" is known to be a monument to the age of humanism.
He was then commissioned to execute monumental gilded bronze statues to be placed within select niches of the Orsanmichele in Florence, one of Saint John the Baptist for the Arte di Calimala (Wool Merchants' Guild) and one of St. Matthew for the Arte di Cambio (Bankers' Guild). Finally, he also produced a bronze figure of St. Stephen for the Arte della Lana (Wool Manufacturers' Guild).
He was also a collector of classical artifacts and a historian. He was actively involved in the spreading of humanist ideas. His unfinished Commentarii are a valuable source of information about Renaissance art and contain an autobiography, the first of an artist. This work was a major source for Vasari's Vite.
Ghiberti died in Florence at the age of seventy-seven.