Art: Worthy of Paradise

It was a ceremonial week for art-loving Florentines. On the very same day that the city honored its most distinguished foreign citizen (see above), fishwives, shopgirls, nuns, monks and scholars jammed the Piazza del Duomo. They had come to see the reinstallation of the famed Baptistery doors of the cathedral. Sculptor Ghiberti's 15th Century doors, with their intricate panels, each like a separate, delicate canvas, for centuries had been the pride of Florence. Worthy of Paradise, Michelangelo had said, and all Florence had agreed.

But the corrosion of their bronze base had seeped through the pores in the gold leaf with which...

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