Donatello (Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi)This is a featured page

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Name: Donatello Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi
Born: c1386
Home town: Florence
Died: 13 December 1466
Position: Sculptor, goldsmith
Famous for: David
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Nickname: Donatello


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Donatello is, in part, known for his work in basso rilievo, a form of shallow relief sculpture that, in Donatello's case, incorporated significant 15th century developments in perspectival illusionism.

Donatello whose father Niccolo di Betto Bardi, who was a member of the Florentine Wool Combers Guild, was born in Florence c1486. He was educated in the house of the Martelli family. He received his early artistic training in a goldsmith's workshop and then worked briefly in the studio of Lorenzo Ghiberti
(of the "Gates of Paradise") fame.

While undertaking study and excavations with Filippo Brunelleschi in Rome (1404 - 1407), work that gained the two men the reputation of treasure seekers, Donatello made a living by working at goldsmiths' shops. Their Roman sojourn was decisive for the entire development of Italian art in the 15th century, for it was during this period that Brunelleschi undertook is measurements of the Pantheon dome and of other Roman buildings. Brunelleschi's buildings and Donatello's sculptures are both considered supreme expressions of the spirit of this era in architecture and sculpture, and they exercised a potent influence upon the painters of the age.

While in Florence, Donatello assisted Ghiberti with the statues of the prophets for the north door of the Florence Baptistery, for which he received payment in November 1406 and early 1408. In 1409 - 1411 he executed the colossal seated figure of St John the Evangelist, which until 1588 occupied a niche of the old cathedral facade, and is now placed in a dark chapel of the Duomo. This work marks a decisive step forward from late Gothic Mannerism in the search of naturalism and the rendering of human feelings. The face, the shoulders and the bust are still idealised, while the hands and the fold of cloth over the legs are more realistic.

In 1411 - 1413 Donatello worked on a statue of St Mark for the church of Orsanmichele. In 1417 he completed the St George for the Guild of Cuirass Makers and Armourers. The elegant St George and the Dragon relief om the statue's base executed in schiacciato is one of the first examples of central-point perspective in sculptor.

From 1423 is the St Louis of Toulouse, now in the Museum of the Basilica of Santa Croce. Donatello had also sculptured a tabernacle for this work, but it was sold in 1460 to house the Incredulity of St Thomas by Verrocchio. Between 1415 and 1426, Donatello created five statues for the campanile of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, also known as the Duomo. These works are the Beardless Prophet, Bearded Prophet (both 1415), the Sacrifice of Isaac (1421), Prophet Habacuc (1423 - 1425) and Jeremiah (1423 - 1426); which follow the classical models for orators and are characterised by strong portrait details. From the late teens is the Pazzi Relief in Berlin. In 1425 he executed the notable Crucifix for Santa Croce, this work portrays Christ in a movement of the agony, eyes and mouth partially opened, the body contracted in an ungraceful posture.

Donatello collaborated with Michelozzo between 1425 - 1427 on the funerary monument of the Anti-pope John XXIII for the Baptistery in Florence. In 1427 he executed a relief of the Feast of Herod and the statues of Faith and Hope for the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Siena.

Around 1430, Cosimo de Medici the foremost art patron of his era commissioned from Donatella the bronze David (now in the Bargello Museum) for the court of his Palazzo Medici. This is now Donatello's most famous work. At the time of its creation, it was the first known free-standing nude statue produced since ancient times. Conceived fully in the round, independent of any architectural surroundings, and largely representing an allegory of the civic virtues triumphing over brutality and irrationality, it was the first major work of Renaissance Sculptors. Also from this period is the disquieting small Love - Atys, housed in the Bargello Museum.

When Cosimo was exiled from Florence, Donatello went to Rome, where he remained until 1433. The two works that testify to his presence in the city is the Tomb of Giovanni Crivelli at Santa Maria in Aracoeli, and the Ciborium at St Peter's Basilica bear a strong stamp of classical influence.

Donatello's return to Florence almost coincided with Cosimo's. From 1434 he started various projects including a marble pulpit on the facade of Prato cathedral along side Michelozzo. In 1435 he executed The Annunciation for the Cavalcanti altar in Santa Croce, and in 1437 - 1443 he worked in the Old Sacristy of the San Lorenzo in Florence. In 143, Donatello was called to Padua by the heirs of the famous condottiero Erasmo da Narni, who had died that year. Completed in 1450 and placed in the square facing the Basilica of St Anthony, his equestian statue of Erasmo (better known as the Gattamelta or "Honey-Cat") was the first example of such a monument since ancient times. Over the following centuries this work became the prototype for equesrtian monuments in Italy and Europe.

Between 1444 - 1447 Donatello created the bronze crucifix and the Madonna and Child, and from 1446 - 1450 four reliefs from the life of St Anthony for the Basilica of St Anthony's high altar .

Donatello returned to Florence in 1453. From 1455 - 1460 and created the Judith and Holofernes which was later acquired by the Medici. Donatello remained in Siena until 1461 and created a St John the Baptist and models for the gates of the Duomo (now lost).

For his last commission in Florence, Donatello produced reliefs for bronze pulpits in the church of San Lorenzo with help from students Bartolomeo Bellano and Bertoldo di Giovanni.

Donatello died in Florence aged 80 in 1466 and was buried in the Basilica of San Lorenzo, next to Cosimi de Medici the Elder.


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  • Donatello never married or had children. He made no secret of his homosexuality and his behaviour was tolerated by his friends. No accusations against him have been found in the Florentine archive
  • Patrons found him very hard to deal and work with. He was not a cultured intellect like Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo. Donatello was essentially a realist.





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Started By Thread Subject Replies Last Post
Kittywake09 13 December 1466 - Italian Renaissance Sculptor Donatello died 3 Dec 13 2010, 10:03 AM EST by Kittywake09
Thread started: Dec 12 2010, 9:46 PM EST  Watch
Around 1430, Cosimo de' Medici, the foremost art patron of his era, commissioned from Donatello the bronze David (now in the Bargello) for the court of his Palazzo Medici. This is now Donatello's most famous work. At the time of its creation, it was the first known free-standing nude statue produced since ancient times. Conceived fully in the round, independent of any architectural surroundings, and largely representing an allegory of the civic virtues triumphing over brutality and irrationality, it was the first major work of Renaissance sculpture. Also from this period is the disquietingly small Love-Atys, housed in the Bargello.

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