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The Best Sculpture and Architecture in the History of Art

Updated on April 9, 2012

St. Mark the Evangelist

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A copy of Donatello's statue of Saint Mark the Evangelist was installed in a niche of Or San Michele in Florence. If it were not for the depth of the recess in the exterior wall of the church, the importance of the Saint would have been totally ignored, for the highly decorative interior and exterior of the niche compete with the unornate and unembellished figure of the Evangelist.

Carved originally in marble, the biblical figure of Saint Mark is standing naturally. About to deliver his oratory sermon, Saint Mark is holding a tablet in his massive left hand. Wisdom is scintillating from his realistically carved facial gestures. His alert physiognomy is not disturbed by the simple cloak that covers his tall slender body. Saint Mark's readiness to step forward and utter wise words indicates that the statue of the Evangelist ought to stand by itself, instead of being confined and obscured by the ornamental recess in the wall. Due to the misplacement of the Saint Mark's figure, not only the beauty of the statue had been disregarded but also the significance of Saint Mark the Evangelist has been neglected.

The Gates of Paradise

"The Gates of Paradise": Panel 1 - "Genesis," Adam and Eve
"The Gates of Paradise": Panel 1 - "Genesis," Adam and Eve | Source

In the unique design of the east doors of the Baptistery that face the entrance to the Duomo di Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Lorenzo Ghiberti demonstrated a true understanding of linear perspective and anatomy. The ten bronze panels executed in an exquisite manner emanate his genuine love for the arts and undeniable devotion to his profession.

In the first panel, "Genesis," one can feel the radiating energy of God's creation. The golden light coming from above illuminates the creation of Eve. The masterly modeled figure of the Creator and figure of Eve have been given a significant place in the center of the panel.

In order to portray several scenes from "Genesis" in the same panel, Ghiberti applied two different techniques of relief. The striking contrast between the low relief of two-dimensional quality and the high relief of three-dimensional quality contributes to the profound realism of the biblical theme, the true equilibrium between the spiritual and physical essence of life.

The Pantheon

"Pantheon" by Giovanni Paolo Pannini
"Pantheon" by Giovanni Paolo Pannini | Source

Who was the artist who designed the best preserved ancient building named the Pantheon? Its origin and its purpose are still unknown. The hidden meaning of its name has not been revealed either.

Modern art critics and scholars have associated this splendid edifice with pagan gods and goddesses. Ironically, all pagan temples are either inactive or in ruins, whereas the Pantheon, after its consecration by the Roman Catholic Church in dedication to the Virgin Mary, has remained active and changed its name to Santa Maria Rotonda.

Carrying the largest unreinforced dome ever built, this simple and modest structure houses a more sophisticated and intricate interior, manifested by its perfect geometric design that symbolizes the perfect Creator, and its vast space that symbolizes His infinity. Illuminated by heavenly light coming through the oculus (a circular opening at the apex of a dome), it makes a spectator wonder about his/her origin and purpose.

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