Ghiberti’s infamous Porta del Paradiso is finally nearing the end of a 21 year restoration. The door depicts 10 stories from the Old Testament in equal squares. This masterpiece is one of the first works that took in the aspect of perspective when working with gold and bronze and took Ghiberti 26 years to compete from 1425-1452. It remained in Piazza Duomo for hundreds of years exposed to harsh weather conditions and threats of destruction by war. In the 1700s the gold was completely covered by a dark varnish to lessen the luminosity of the door – something typical of the neoclassical style. In 1943 the Porta del Paradiso was removed from the Baptistery when World War II arrived in
. The door and several other treasured works were transported out of Florence and were returned in 1948. Then the flood of 1966 threatened to ruin the door when violent flood waters pushed it open and caused 6 of the 10 golden squares fixated to the door with bronze to fall. Seemingly a tragedy for the Porta del Paradiso, it proved to be a blessing for restoration methods in that the squares could be screwed on to the door. Now each scene could be worked on separately and the intricate door frame could also be better taken care of. In the 1980s researchers found that humidity between the gold and bronze of the door created an oxide that contributed to corrosion. For this reason it became more urgent to remove the door from the extreme weather conditions it could endure in Piazza Duomo. Florence
The weathered golden door was removed from the Baptistery in 1990 and replaced by a bronze replica. Since then only two people have worked on cleaning and restoring tarnished parts of the door. Methods of preservation in the past had done more damage than good from the use of acids that were traditionally used to clean marble. While the 6 squares that had fallen off during the flood were an easier task for restoration, but it proved to be much more difficult to approach the task of restoring the other 4 squares and the other 46 elements of the frieze. Experts first tried to use a metal frame attached to the various parts of the door to remove the pieces. In this method they were able to remove the remaining 4 squares and 8 elements of the frieze. In 2000 it became possible to use a laser method to detach the remaining elements of the door. Now all that remains is to transport this magnificent piece of history to its new home in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo.