Gazing up at the gigantic Christ the Judge in the Florence Baptistery is one of the best moments you could experiences..!
His overwhelming presence sitting in judgement and holding out his hands, driving the Blessed to Heaven and the Damned to Hell, really must have struck fear in the hearts of people during the Middle Ages..!
An enormous set of mosaics covers the domed interior of the Baptistery; in fact, this is one of the most important mosaics from the medieval period, executed throughout the XIIIth century and the XIVth by Venetian craftsmen from cartoons by Meliore, Coppo di Marcovaldo, the Magdalene Master, Cimabue.
How does this marvellous depiction of Christ seem to you..? Before the Renaissance era, human characters (or divine characters, represented as human) and objects weren't depicted in a lifelike way, but rather in an abstract, “symbolic” and, to some extent, “childlike" way. Why? Weren't artists from the Middle Ages skilled? Of course, many of them were. It takes skill to stylise a form such as this. As a matter of fact, for medieval craftsmen and artists the concept of “reality” was something they were not too “fond” of; they did not depict images as realistically as a modern picture. It didn't have to “come alive”, or it would be blasphemous. An artist couldn't substitute God, and create “life” himself. Images simply alluded to reality, and to the divine dimension, rather than depicting them accurately. You may think this mosaic is imperfect; look at the sacred circle “framing” Jesus Christ. It is geometrically perfect. Forms are stylised, but embellished with extremely ornate and refined details.
Florentine craftsmen, at that time, didn't actually know how to make mosaics..! Some unknown Byzantine craftsmen, who had worked in Saint Mark's Basilica, and had also worked in Sicily, were far more skilled.
If you look carefully at this masterpiece, which is eight meters high, you will see that the artist chose to render the figure's “chiaroscuro” not with black or dark tiles, but with rows of bright, different coloured tiles (tiny glass tiles covered with a very thin layer of pure gold or pigment).
Enjoy and appreciate all this along with me, your expert Florence guide..!