The restoration of the oldest of the three monumental bronze and gold doors of the Baptistery of Florence, the South Gate, made almost 700 years ago by Andrea Pisano, one of the greatest artists of the fourteenth century, disciple and collaborator of Giotto. For the first time the three doors of the Baptistery, including the famous one Door of Paradise, will be visible, from December 9, next to each other in the Sala del Paradiso of the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. A show unique in the world. The intervention was possible thanks to theWork of Santa Maria del Fiore, of which the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo is part, which has financed with a million and a half euro the restoration, dismantling, transport and placement in the museum. With the South Gate concludes a cycle of restorations started in 1978, directed and performed byOpificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, which covered the three monumental Doors of the Baptistery of Florence starting from Door of Paradise 1978 - 2012), the North Gate (2013 - 2015) and the South Gate (2016 - 2019).
The restoration of the oldest Porta del Battistero, which lasted three years, brought to light the beautiful gilding no longer visible and at the same time recovered the wonderful details of the sculptural parts, made with a care so passionate as to make them look like a "prayer". During the 1966 flood, the gate was badly damaged: the right wing almost split in two by a serious transverse lesion, probably formed on an already existing fusion defect; some panels fell to the ground and one of the 48 lion heads was lost, perhaps dragged away by the violent stream of water.
The placement of the three doors of the Baptistery in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo after restoration, in large display cases, was necessary for conservative reasons. On the Baptistery the originals have been replaced by copies made by the Frilli Gallery of Florence, financed by the Opera of Santa Maria del Fiore and for the Paradise Gate by the patron Choichiro Motoyama and for the North Gate with the support of the Guild of the Dome Association.
To the famous fourteenth-century sculptor Andrea Pisano, we owe the oldest of the three Doors of the Baptistery of Florence, built between the 1330 and the 1336. A giant in bronze and gold of about 8 tons of weight for 4 meters and 94 cm in height and 2,95 in width. The client, the powerful Art of Calimala or the merchants, had to resort to expert Venetian founders such as Leonardo di Avanzo for the complex fusion of the framework of the two doors.
and collaborators. Andrea Pisano, called "master of the doors", will execute the 28 panels of the Door of which 20 with episodes from the life of St. John the Baptist, patron of the Baptistery and of the city of Florence, and 8 with emblematic figures. The reading order is from top to bottom and from left to right. On the left door I am
the episodes related to the role of prophet of the Baptist are represented, while to the right those of martyrdom. The tiles are interspersed with 74 golden friezes, each decorated with rosettes alternating with diamonds, while at the vertices of the quadrilobes, containing the scenes, we find 48 lion heads. On the upper part of the door is the artist's signature: "ANDREAS UGOLINI NINI DE PISIS ME FECIT ADMCCC.XXX" (Andrea son of Ugolino son of Nino di Pisa made me in the year of Lord 1330).
Fundamental iconographic references for this work were the cycle of mosaics of the Baptistery with the life of Saint John the Baptist and the frescoes by Giotto in the Peruzzi Chapel in Santa Croce in Florence. The style of the last Giotto is clearly legible in Andrea's figures and compositions, and it cannot be ruled out that the great master may have designed some of the scenes or at least offered ideas for the spatial and narrative organization of the individual panels and for the invention of the figures that compose them.
Today's restoration of the Door by Andrea Pisano, edited by Bronze Sector of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, was carried out on the basis of the protocol applied to the first Ghiberti's door with variations with respect to the different situations encountered. The intervention - which involved a team of 14 restorers, as well as scientific experts and other technical professionals - brought to light what remains of the splendid original gilding on the sculptural parts of the tiles, profiles and many decorative details, hidden underneath. thick deposit layers and green changes in the metal alloy. The state of conservation of the gilding was very different: some tiles have a consistent gold deposit, others discontinuous, and in some cases it is very incomplete. In the lower part of the door some protruding reliefs were worn by contact with the hands that deprived them of the gilding and the bronze oxidation patina. After the initial diagnostic investigations, in particular the thermographic ones that highlighted various structural criticalities, washing was carried out by nebulization and micro-vaporization. The gilded parts with mercury amalgam were treated with laser ablation. The non-gilded areas of the front, the back and the thickness of the doors have been cleaned with different types of mechanical cleaning. Particularly effective in the finishing phase was the use of cryo sandblasting (cryogenic cleaning) which makes use of dry ice used with compressed air to eliminate, in hardly accessible parts, residues of deposit materials and alterations.
The three doors of the Baptistery have been restored only once, between the 1946 and the 1948, on their return to Florence after having been dismantled and taken to a secret place to protect them from the bombings of the Second World War.
Andrea Pisano will be entrusted with the most important Florentine sculptural enterprises of the century. After Giotto's death in 1337, he will be in charge of carrying out the work on the bell tower, begun by the famous painter, as well as the sculptural decoration of the bell tower. In the 48s, with the help of collaborators, Andrea will create eight of the large statues of the bell tower and 52 of the XNUMX reliefs; in the first of these - those of the western façade - he probably used drawings left by Giotto. The originals of both the statues and the reliefs are exhibited at the Museo dell'Opera.