Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bard, better known as Donatello was born in 1386 in Florence, Italy. He is known as one of the greatest Italian sculptures and artists of all time. He was an artist during the early Renaissance and created works of art until his death in Florence in 1466. During his early teenage years Donatello was educated, lived with and trained by the Martellis family.[1] The Martellis family was a very powerful Florentine family that made its wealth from the banking industry. Later on in his teenage years Donatello apprenticed with Lorenzo Ghiberti who was an excellent sculptor and metal smith from Florence. Ghiberti was best known for his work creating the bronze doors for the Baptistery of Florence and a large bronze statue of St. John the Baptist. Ghiberti actually beat out famed artist Filippo Brunelleschi for the commission of the bronze doors. While an apprentice for Ghiberti, Donatello actually helped him create the cathedral doors.[2] After working for and with Ghiberti, Donatello became friends with Brunelleschi. These two traveled with each other to Rome for a year, in which they studied the ruins of classical Rome as well as classical Roman art. At this point in his life, Donatello began to work by himself and started to receive various commissions for his work.

 

Donatello had an enormous impact on the art of Florence. One of the main reasons he was in Florence was because this is where he was born. He also apprenticed in Florence and lived the majority of his life in the city. The main reason he stayed and lived the majority of his life was because it was the center of the Renaissance. As the heart of the Renaissance, a large number of the works of art created in Italy during this time period. Florence was also a center of wealth and power so a lot of art was financed and commissioned in Florence. Throughout the city there were a great deal of wealthy citizens who would pay for and sponsor artists to create works of art not only for them, but also for the various churches and cathedrals of the city.

Equestrian Sculpture of Gattamelata

Equestrian Sculpture of Gattamelata

 

One of Donatello’s most famous works was the bronze statue Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata. This sculpture was created by Donatello in 1453 and depicts Erasmo of Narni (who was also known as Gattamelata) riding a horse into battle. Erasmo was a mercenary soldier who served in the Republic of Venice’s army. Erasmo’s family paid Donatello and commissioned the statue. It is currently located in the Piazza del Santo in Pauda Italy, which is located roughly twenty five miles outside of Venice.

 

Feast of Herod

 

Another one of Donatello’s most significant works is The Feast of Herod, which Donatello created in 1427. The Feast of Herod is a bronze relief sculpture that is located in the baptistery in the Siena Cathedral. This cathedral is located in Sienna, Italy, which is roughly 40 miles south of Florence. The relief depicts the scene after King Herod has St. John the Baptist’s head cut off. In the sculpture you can see the executioner holding St. John’s head and Herod looking on with a shocked look on his face.

 

David

David

 

In 1430 Donatello created his most famous work of art, the bronze statue David. This statue was commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici who was one of the wealthiest and most powerful patrons of the Renaissance period.  Cosimo was a great patron of the arts and was able to acquire a large amount wealth through his family’s bank. Medici is considered the patriarch and founder of the powerful Medici family, which is arguably one of the wealthiest and most significant families of all time.  Although it has faced restorations since it was originally created by Donatello, it currently resides in the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence.

 

This statue depicts a nude, bronze David from the biblical story of David and Goliath. David was a small teenager who was able to defeat Goliath, who was a giant from Philistine that no one had been able to defeat, using a slingshot. This subject is so important because it is one of the most famous biblical stories of all time and Donatello like most Italians of the time was a strong Catholic.

 

This characterizes Donatello’s work because he was very well known for his bronze sculptures. Almost of his works were created this way and he is known as creating not only some of the best sculptures of the Renaissance, but of all time.  The statue is very balanced and smooth. The composition of this piece is a work that sprang from a crystal-clear vision and months of meticulous construction and fastidious planning.[3] The statue is also very proportionate accurately mimicking a human’s body. Another interesting aspect of this piece is that outside of the male genitalia, one could look at the statue as feminine, with long flowing hair and a lady like hat.

 

This work is a traditional Renaissance statue. Like most of the art of the time it portrays a biblical scene or an aspect of Christianity. During the Renaissance there was also a great increase in patronage for public art and for art at the homes of the very wealthy. This statue was commissioned by the Medici’s for their own personal use. The use of bronze is also a characteristic of early Italian Renaissance sculptures and used by many other artists such as Ghiberti and Brunelleschi. The style of accurately portraying real life people was also another aspect of the Italian Renaissance art that was used by Donatello in this sculpture. Although the statue of David wasn’t necessarily the first of its kind, it was very innovative and an early example of Italian Renaissance sculptures.

 

 

 

 

 

 


[1] “Donatello.” Donatello Biography. N.p. n.d. Web http://www.biography.com/people/donatello-21032601?page=2

 

[2] “Donatello.” Donatello Biography. N.p. n.d. Web http://www.biography.com/people/donatello-21032601?page=2

 

[3] “David.” Artble: The Home of Passionate Art Lovers. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.artble.com/artists/donatello/sculpture/david&gt;.