The Gates of Paradise

Whether the marvel is a magic trick or an artwork, people always want to know, ?How did they do it?!? The Gates of Paradise: Lorenzo Ghiberti's Renaissance Masterpiece, edited by Professor Gary M. Radke, details the history of both the Florentine sculptor's greatest work and its most recent restoration. Ghiberti was precocious in every aspect of his career. Born in 1378, he was only 23 when he won the prize commission to design the door panels for the Baptistery of the Cathedral in Florence. In order to realize this enormous project -- which entailed the completeion of three sets of doors over 50 years -- he created a workshop that trained artists who later earned recognition in their own right, such as Donatello and Uccello. Aware of his own talents, he also wrote the first known autobiography of an artist. At the time the doors were produced, realistic perspective and psychological expressiveness were avant-garde ideas. An early proponent of humanism, Ghiberti wished to achieve plausibility while also imparting an idealized grace and sublimity to the biblical mortals he depicted. Often, each panel was a composition including many episodes of a story, and he would deftly use architectural framing devices and tricks of perspective, such as varying the level of relief of the figures to distinguish the various elements: thus, the anguish of Adam and Eve is palpable when they are exiled from Eden. The doors have since inspired centuries of artists, including Michelangelo, who dubbed them ?the Gates of Paradise.? The final portion of the book covers the various processes and experiments (including chemical baths and laser polishing) that conservation scientists used to restore the doors to their original glory without removing the evidence of the hands that originally created them. In explaining how the effects were achieved, the catalog doesn't detract from the marvel but rather engenders even more respect for this stupendous feat of ingenuity. -

July 22: On this day in 1941, on his twelfth wedding anniversary, Eugene O'Neill presented the just-finished manuscript of Long Day's Journey into Night to his wife, Carlotta.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.


What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.