Part of Brunelleschi's artistic inspiration stemmed from the study of ancient Roman ruins; however, a recent analysis of the architect’s work shows that he may have not known the original source of the pieces he observed, but was more inspired by local Romanesque architecture.
In 1401, Brunelleschi was one of seven participants in the very prestigious competition to choose the artist for the new set of bronze doors for Florence’s Baptistery (now located on the building’s north side). Seven gilded bronze panels depicting the assigned topic, the Sacrifice of Isaac, were produced. As is known, the ultimate winner was Lorenzo Ghiberti, who also went on to create a second set of doors known as the Gates of Paradise. Meanwhile, Brunelleschi decided to dedicate himself to architecture rather than sculpture.
In 1410, another competition brought Brunelleschi and Donatello head to head: the famed Crucifix. The Crucifix made by Donatello for the Church of Santa Croce was nicknamed by Brunelleschi “the farmer Crucifìx” for its apparent peasant-like depiction of Christ. Challenged to better Donatello’s rendering, Brunelleschi set out to create the same subject for the Church of Santa Maria Novella.