Can’t Get to Florence, Try San Francisco, CA

P1000191My next stop, on my not-going-to-great-art-locations day, was Grace Cathedral on Nob Hill in San Francisco.  Again, seeing art collected in the historic locations is a valuable experience.  But, for anyone living near a major city in the USA, you can probably find your fill of art of any location and time.  Some locations even have some specialty item worth seeking out.  What does an Episcopal Cathedral in San Francisco have to do the Florence?  

P1000196During World War II, with the Allied forces marching up Italy, art historians were concerned about what would be destroyed along the way.  Not that the Allied forces were into destroying art for destructions sake, but bombs do blow things up and retreating and conquering force find looting the rewards warfare (much of the art in Paris got there thanks to Nepolean pillaging various European cities).

The artists in Florence made duplicate casts of the Doors to Paradise by Ghiberti.  These are on the baptistery outside the Duomo.  The reproduction doors were slipped out of Italy and ended up on Grace Cathedral in the 1960’s.

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P1000208The doors consist of ten scenes from the Hebrew scriptures.  Each scene is contained in a square, using the narrative style, such that several events from each event may be portrayed.  Thus God creates Adam; Adam and Eve eat the fruit from the forbidden tree; and, the angel expels Adam and Eve from Paradise all in one scene.  Bordering the scenes are Hebrew figures, and heads of people whom I could not identify (including Ghiberti, I believe).

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P1000210The scenes use a relief style of sculpture, with some sections slightly raised, some almost fully formed, and others presented almost as shallowly as an etching.  In this painterly fashion, Ghiberti presents the action occurring in architectural settings related to Renaissance Italy, rather than Egypt, Judea, etc.

After admiring the doors (I had an exclusive tour as no one walking by seemed to know what I was taking photos of), I spend more time in the cathedral.  It has dazzling stained glass windows on various themes, several chapels, a labyrinth for contemplation, and fresco depicting scenes from California history.

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About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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8 Responses to Can’t Get to Florence, Try San Francisco, CA

  1. cindy knoke says:

    Lovely & there is the Palace of Fine Arts too!

  2. Barneysday says:

    We were there over the holidays, but didnt make it to the church. Great history, thanks for visiting.

  3. Sue Larson says:

    Enjoyed reading about SF’s cathedral.  I thought your TEST (!) of the art blog was GREAT…well the idea is great.  Since I have not read all the blogs, I did not feel my learning curve would “stand the test”…pun intended!!  You can score me when you get home.  I hope to be “caught” up.  By the way, I use to know which little head was that of the guy – whose name I can’t remember (hmmm) who did the doors. “Grace” has some really nice replicas – the doors, the little Chapel at the left of the altar is a tiny copy of St. Chappel on the island in Paris where Notre Dame is located.  And Grace did not have enough money to finish the stained glass windows and WW2 came along and delayed the project.  So the last half dozen or so on each side toward the entrance are contemporary.  Think there is an astronaut somewhere in the figures…shows the diversion Grace took over the years from Biblical characters to secular figures.

  4. I had no idea the doors had that kind of history! Great story.

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