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Donatello the Sculptor

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Donato di Niccaló di Betto Bardi, also known as Donatello, was an Italian Renaissance artists and sculptor born in 1386 in Florence, Italy. He is arguably one of the greatest master sculptors of the 15th century. His ability to immortalize human expression through his art put him in a league of his own. In Florence Donatello was taught the basics of sculpting and early on he was an apprentice to Lorenzo Ghiberti. Donatello creatively carved sculptures out of stone, wood and bronze; giving life to the raw materials as he created. Donatello died at the age of 80 years old, but he left behind a legacy of sculptures for the coming generations to admire and enjoy. I will outline several of the masters more notable pieces; choosing selections from his entire sculpting career.

The story of David and Goliath is a well known story of the bible. The young hero of this story is also the basis of two of Donatello’s sculptures. In 1408 Donatello was commissioned by the operai of the cathedral of Florence to sculpt a statue of David. This was the first of the three versions of David Donatello created. The statue is a life-sized marble carving of David and is one of Donatello’s earliest known works. The statue depicts young David in triumph; with the head of his enemy, the giant Goliath, at his feet. The statue was intended decorate the buttresses of the tribunes of the cathedral alongside 12 statues of prophets, but was thought to be too small and was ultimately removed and replaced.

The second statue created by Donatello was the first of its kind. It was the first free standing bronze sculpture of a human during the Renaissance period. The statue again depicts the hero David with the slain giant Goliath at his feet, but that is where t...

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... Sculpted upon the relief is a carefully crafted rendering of the Virgin Mary holding the child lovingly at her neck. She is surrounded by four angels, two on either side of her and the child. The backside of the relief is hollowed out, creating a mould for casting replicas of the image. This relief was given to Donatello’s doctor, Giovanni Chellini, in 1456.

Works Cited

Krén, Emil. Web Gallery of Art, image collection, virtual museum, searchable database of European fine arts (1000-1850). Emil Krén, Dec. 2011. Web. 7 Mar. 2012.

Landmarks of Western Art: The Late Medieval World - A Journey of Art History Across the Ages.Dir. Lara Lowe. Perf. Tim Martin. Kultur, 2006. DVD

Olson, Roberta J. M. Italian Renaissance Sculpture. London: Thames and Hudson, 1992. Print.

Pope-Hennessy, John. An Introduction to Italian Sculpture: Ii. London: Phaidon, 2000. Print.
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