Donatello (1386-1466)

Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi was born in Florence. He started his career as a simple goldsmith apprentice, and then he became the greatest Florentine sculptor of his time. Donatello was certainly the most influential italian artist of the 15th century.

Portrait of Donatello, unknown Florentine painter, 17th century

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About His Life

Donatello, also known as Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi, was born in Florence around 1386. As a young man, he was a member of Arte della Lana and he received an artistic training from a local goldsmith, so he learned metallurgy and fabrication of metals. In 1403, he apprenticed with metalsmith and sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti. He assisted Ghiberti to create the bronze doors for the Baptistery of the Florence Cathedral. He traveled to Rome to study classical art and sculpture. This experience gave Donatello a deep understanding of ornamentation and classic forms.  His association with Brunelleschi likely influenced him in the Gothic style that can be seen in much of Donatello’s early work. The decade between 1443 and 1453 was spent in Padua. Donatello maintained a lifelong friendship with the wealthy and famous de Medici family and upon his retirement received from them an allowance to live on for the rest of his life. The artist died on December 13, 1466 of unknown causes.

info source: https://www.biography.com/people/donatello-21032601

Donatello Statue, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

image source: https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donatello#/media/File:Uffizi_Donatello.jpg

What were is major works?

Perhaps Donatello’s landmark work was his bronze statue of David (1440), that was commissioned by Cosimo de’Medici for the Palazzo Medici. This sculpture was the first free-standing male nude statue since the era of Greek sculpture, the first unsupported standing bronze statue cast during the Renaissance, and the first of three famous Davids. The statue exhibited style known as contrapposto, a sculptural scheme, originated by the ancient Greeks.

info source: http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/sculpture/david-by-donatello.htm

info source: http://www.italianrenaissance.org/donatellos-david/

Bronze David, Donatello, 1440

image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donatello#/media/File:Florence_-_David_by_Donatello.jpg

Among his sculptures Donatello produced the marble David, the large figure St. Mark (1411-1413) in a niche on the exterior of Orsanmichele, the seated St. John the Evangelist (1415) for the facade of the Cathedral, St George (1415-1417), his earliest work which displays his radical move away from the prevalent Gothic style, the Prophet Habakkuk (1423–1425), also known as Lo Zuccone, the Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata (1453) in Padua, which represented Erasmo da Narmi, a famous Venetian condottiere who died shortly before, the Penitent Magdalene (1453–1455), one of Donatello’s most renowned works and considered his greatest masterpiece in wood, and Judith and Holofernes (1460)

Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata, Donatello, 1453

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Among his reliefs there were St. George Killing the Dragon (1416-1417), which introduced a new mode of relief and is also famous for being one of the first examples of central-point perspective in sculpture, The Feast of Herod (1423-1427), one of Donatello’s earliest relief sculptures and his first bronze relief.

The Feast of Herod, Donatello, 1423-1427

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Sometime around 1450, Donatello undertook a massive project for the church Saint Anthony of Padua. His work contained 7 life-size bronze statues, 21 bronze reliefs of various sizes, and a large limestone relief.

info source. https://learnodo-newtonic.com/donatello-famous-works

info source: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Donatello

One of the reliefs in St. Anthony of Padua, Donatello

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How can we identify Donatello’s Style?

One of the foremost sculptors of the Italian Renaissance, Donatello was a master of both marble and bronze, and had an extensive knowledge of ancient sculpture. He also introduced a further innovation, a technique known as schiacciatostiacciato or shallow relief, which became commonly used in Renaissance low relief. This technique involved extremely shallow carving and utilized light and shadow to create the full pictorial scene. His artistic techniques were copied repeatedly by his contemporaries and successors and still inspire artists today.

info source: http://www.artble.com/artists/donatello

info source: https://www.thoughtco.com/donatello-profile-1788759

info source: Understanding Art, A Reference Guide to Painting, Sculpture and Architecure in the Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque Periods

St. George Killing The Dragon, Donatello, 1417

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