Who is Donatello?
Great Marble Sculptor Donatello was a master of bronze and marble sculpture. He is regarded as one of the greatest Italian Renaissance artists and was recognized for his life-like sculpture.
His sculptures reflected the feelings of joy and sorrow through their realistic faces and poses. His major works include the statue of David, and two outstandingly unique works, ‘St Mark’ and ‘St John the Evangelist’.
Great Marble Sculptor Donatello Childhood Journey
Donatello’s birth was Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi. He was born on in 1386 in Florence, Italy to Niccolo di Betto Bardi. His father was a member of the Guide of Wool Combers in Florence.
His education, he studied at the home of the Martellis, a famous and wealthy Florentine family of bankers and art patrons. There, he was introduced to art and sculpture.
He received art training from a local goldsmith and naturally gained knowledge about metals and other substances. As a result, he began to take an interesting sculpturing.
Work With Lorenzo Ghiberti
After that, he started to work with the famous metalworker and sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti. He learned the art of Gothic sculpturing. He assisted Ghiberti in creating the North Baptistery gates of the Florence Cathedral.
The first sculpture he commissioned was in 1406. In 1408, he created a life-size marble sculpture of David, simply named ‘David’. It was his one of the most famous classical works. If fascinated people because of its free-standing nature.
Donatello starts to work in various goldsmith shops to earn money. The experience and knowledge he gained eventually changed the fifteenth-century Italian art scene. Other popular works of Donatello were the marble sculptures ‘St Mark’ placed in the Orsanmichele Church and ‘St John the Evangelist’ for the cathedral in Florence.
He mastered the art of making larger-than-life figures and developed amazing skills. He created five statues including the ‘Beardless Prophet’, Breaded Prophet, the Sacrifice of Isaac’, Zuccone’ and ‘Jeremiah’.
Met with Michelozzo
He met another sculptor, Michelozzo during this time, and they often collaborated. Michelozzo was famous for his architecture and Donatello for his sculptures. They also toured Rome around 1425. His time in Rome made him fall in love with ornamentation and the classical forms of arts.
He worked on projects such as the tomb of Pope John XXIII and the tomb of Cardinal Brancacci. Other than that, he sculptured the statues of ‘Faith’ and ‘Hope’ in Siena. Their innovations in building the burial chambers later influenced many other Florentine tombs. Donatello soon met the famous Medici family.
Padua Journey of Donatello
In 1430, the Medici approached Donatello to commission his famous Bronze statue, ‘David’ for the court. This bronze was stepping stone in his career. The statue was a spark for the Renaissance period of art. It is considered to be the first major Renaissance sculpture. In 1443, Donatello traveled to Padua.
There, he completed his other major work called ‘Gattamelata’. The statue was of Erasmo riding a house in full battle costume. It was the first equestrian (a rider on horseback) bronze statue created since the Romans. It became a source of inspiration for other equestrian statues that were later created in Italy and Europe.
In Padua, he also created the high altar of St Antonio and seven life-sized bronze sculptures. It made him the most acclaimed sculptor. After 1443, he spent ten years as the head of a huge workshop. Donatello brought revolutionary changes around this time; he began to create statues based on illusions and space. In 1455, he returned to Florence.
Struggle of Donatello
He only completed two works of art, ‘St John the Baptist’ and a pair bronze door to go with the sculpture, and an extraordinary figure of St Mary Magdalene, between 1450-1455.
Most of his unfinished pieces were completed by his students, but they maintained the artist’s signature style. Donatello soon became bedridden, which limited his work. In the last few years of his life, Donatello created several wooden sculptures. But they were not well-received as a new generation of excellent marble sculptors came about, changing the Florentine sculpting scene.
Some Final Days of Life
He died due to unknown reasons on December 13, 1466, in Florence, Italy. He left a great legacy as the most significant sculptor of the early Renaissance. Along with Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Shakespeare, Donatello became the focus of a movement of artist that contributed highly to European culture.