Donatello was one of the most important and influential artists of the fifteenth century. As a master artist, he sculpted some of the most beautiful pieces of the Italian Renaissance. His innovations impacted many artists of his time, and set the standard for centuries of sculptors to follow. Donatello’s style is clearly defined and easily recognized in nearly all of his pieces. An exception is the bronze, David, dated 1425-1430. David strays from the traditional style of Donatello with reference to style, form, and medium. Historians speculate on the reasons for this breakthrough with regards to Donatello’s philosophies and life experiences, questioning his brief return to the classical style, as well as the year of the sculpture’s creation.
As one of the most brilliant and representative figures of the Italian Renaissance, Donatello was able to give form to his intellectual aspirations and achievements. He was gifted in depicting elements of both the antique and the modern sentiment, and able to blend them seamlessly in his work. He had an appreciation of life with robust self-reliance, and respect for the inner workings of the soul. Donatello worked exceptionally with most any medium. He cast sculptures in bronze, clay, and marble with equal genius. His originality in conception, and complete break from tradition offset his work from that of any other artist of his time. His strong sense of independence opened the door for both painters and sculptors in Florence, promoting his vision of freedom from his predecessors’ prescribed rules. The embrace of Donatello’s philosophy by artists of the fifteenth century resulted in a permanent change in Italian art. "So completely Donatellesque did Italian art become that it is impossible to conceive what direction it would have taken without his overwhelming influence, …and that every great Master of our own day consciously or unconsciously based his art upon that of Donatello" (Cruttwell 3). Donatello rapidly matured as an artist and was able to present humanity, in its crudest form of existence, to the world. Beauty and form seemed to have little interest to Donatello, but rather the character and emotion of the subject (Janson 413). Straying from his earlier classical works, Donatello’s breakthrough David exemplifies his ability to cast bronze into a beautiful, yet clea...
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... Virgin Mary, as well as the faces of the mourning angels. All of these similarities place David in 1425-1430, adding to the mystery of Donatello’s brief return to a somewhat classical, and absolutely different, style of sculpture.
Throughout his life, Donatello produced an abundance of beautiful paintings and sculptures, almost all having an impact on the art world. His influence is fairly evident in most pieces of the last five centuries. Donatello was one of the most prolific artists of the Renaissance, who work still amazes modern day historians. His bronze, David, surrounded by controversy with regards to style and origin, has become one of the greatest puzzles of the Italian Renaissance.
Cruttwell, Maud. Donatello. Freeport: Books for Libraries Press, 1911.
Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1999.
Grassi, Luigi. All the Sculpture of Donatello. New York: HawthornBooks, 1964.
Janson, H.W. History of Art. New York: Prentice Hall, Inc., 1997
Janson, H.W. The Sculpture of Donatello. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963.
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