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Saint Stephen is one of several sculptures by Lorenzo Ghiberti for display in the external niches of the Orsanmichele in Florence
The sculptor also produced St Matthew and St John the Baptist for this highly ornate building. The external statues have now been transferred indoors in order to ensure their survival for future generations to enjoy. They were each made from bronze, a medium that was particularly expensive at this time.
The Orsanmichele in Florence now displays replicas on the exterior of the building but the originals can be found in their museum. A number of highly respected sculptors put together this series of 14 figures, with each artist allowed to express themselves artistically but without producing anything too inconsistent with what had gone before.
This full length figure of Saint Stephen was completed by the artist in 1427-1428. His other works here took longer, suggesting that he was perhaps busier when putting them together. This much in-demand sulptor would normally have several different projects running at the same time, with help coming from his studio assistants.
Ghiberti was aware of the respect that the donors for these artworks had in him. He knew they would accept almost any request, however expensive, and he was therefore able to create precisely as he wished. The end result were groundbreaking bronze statues that were unusually large for this medium. Mere mortals would typically choose stone for portraits of this size, making this a bold and ambitious series of works for Lorenzo Ghiberti.