Donatello (1386-1466)

Donatello di Niccol di Betto Bardi was an Italian Renaissance sculptor now considered one of the greatest sculptors of all time and the founder of modern sculpture. His use of shallow relief sculpting, or making a sculpture appear deeper than it really is, became his trademark.

Donatello was born in Florence in 1386 to a wool comber. At the age of 17, noted sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti sought his assistance in constructing and decorating the famous bronze doors of the baptistery of the San Giovanni church in Florence. Later in life, architect Filippo Brunelleschi mentored Donatello and allowed the young artist to accompany him to Rome to study the monuments of antiquity.

Donatello s career can be divided into three eras. Before 1425, the work of this first and formative era was influenced by Gothic sculpture and also featured classical and realistic leanings. Among his many sculptures from this period include Saint George.

The second era, from 1425-1443, the sculptures of antiquity served as models and Donatello relied quite heavily on their influences during this time. It was during this time in Florence, when Donatello created his most recognizable work, the bronze David, which was also the first nude sculpture of the Renaissance.

In his culminating third era, Donatello s scultpures moved from the classical influences towards the emphasized realism, character portrayal and dramatic action evident in his later works.

Donatello sculptures influenced not only Florence and 15th century Italy, but his many pupils used his example to inspire their own sculpts. His work was also a major propeller of the development of realism in Italian painting, especially noticeable in the work of Paduan aritist Andrea Mantegna.

Donatello died in 1466 and was buried in Florence s Basilica of San Lorenzo next to Cosimo the Elder.


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