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The Italian artist is one of the most renowned sculptors of the Renaissance. By perfecting stiacciato (the technique of flattened relief), Donatello succeeded in giving his works a sense of depth and relief. Among the best-known creations of the artist, who worked in marble, bronze and wood, among other materials, are the David (Museo Nazionale del Bargello), the Penitent Madonna (Museo dell'Opera del Duomo in Florence) and the Equestrian Monument to Gattamelata (the equestrian monument in Piazza del Santo in Padua).

Donatello, the Italian master of sculpture, is one of those great immortal artists who have left their mark on art forever. Born into a modest family in Florence in 1386, Donatello studied under the guidance of a teacher. In his youth, he studied under the patronage of Lorenzo Ghiberti, an artist with whom he perfected his technique. With his friend and colleague Filippo Brunelleschi, he went to Rome to study ancient art. He quickly made a name for himself and was hired in 1406 to decorate the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also called the Duomo of Florence. His realistic style and acute sense of perspective earned him recognition among the greatest artists. His unique touch can be seen in his David, one of his most famous works. From 1427 onwards, Donatello joined forces with his pupil Michelozzo to create the tomb of Cardinal Branacci of Naples, and then that of Antipope John XXIII in the Florence Baptistery. Returning to his native city in 1453 after several years spent in Padua, he created more singular works. These included a massive bronze sculpture of Judith and Holofernes and a disturbing Mary Magdalene, far from the usual canons. Stricken with partial paralysis, he died in 1466 while working on his sculpture. He was buried in a sumptuous funeral. Donatello remains a major sculptor of his time and of the history of art.

Donatello's training as a sculptor.

Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi, known as Donatello, was born around 1386 in Florence. The son of a wool carder, he grew up in a modest family. Apart from his training as a sculptor, little is known about his personal life. He first studied with the painter Bicci di Lorenzo, who was also a sculptor. Between 1404 and 1407, he apprenticed in the workshop of the famous Lorenzo Ghiberti. This artist trained him in his bronze casting technique. This training led him to meet Brunelleschi, a famous Florentine artist who became a friend. He accompanied him to Rome to study ancient models. Brunelleschi introduced him to the possibilities offered by perspective. In 1409, his first statue, a marble David, made him stand out. It stood out at the time for its fine anatomical details.

Characteristics of Donatello's work.

Donatello drew a major and innovative lesson from his trip to Rome and the study of ancient art. From the observation of polished marble, the finish of bronze, the fluidity of movement and the treatment of the nude, he rethought the art of the statue and adopted a personal approach to the subjects he treated. The figures he creates are not just representations, they are individuals with a personality of their own. His unprecedented mastery of anatomy and perspective, and his ability to reinvent existing art codes, made him one of the fathers of the Italian Renaissance. During half a century of activity, he carried out a solitary and atypical work. His work shows a delicacy of work, accurate details and an unparalleled skill of execution, whatever the material. Donatello created both statues and bas-reliefs, two complementary aspects of his work. Moreover, his work reveals a keen sense of space and perspective, and he never ceased to reinvent himself. At the end of his life, his sculptures became even more original, like the massive bronze statue of Judith and Holofernes and his Mary Magdalene Penitent, which is particularly disturbing, but above all far from the usual canons.

Donatello's David sculpture.

Donatello's David (1430-1432), bronze, 1.58m, Bargello Palace, Florence ©irisphoto18/123RF.COM

Donatello's most famous work is undoubtedly his David, a bronze sculpture made between 1430 and 1432. It is the first large bronze sculpture cast since antiquity. It is a life-size sculpture of 1.58 m, set on a marble pedestal. The nudity of the young David is shocking. Since antiquity, sculptures have always been clothed. The figure has an enigmatic smile. Wearing a hat and boots, he carries Goliath's sword while the feathers of his helmet run up one of his legs. Commissioned by Cosimo de' Medici, this sculpture was intended to adorn the inner courtyard of the Medici Palace. It was installed there in 1453. Then in 1495, following the expulsion of the princely family, it was transferred to the cortile of the Palazzo Vecchio. This statue is now kept in the Bargello Palace in Florence.

Source : Marie Ribault

Photos : e.venice



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