He wasn't just a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. Donatello
was an artist in Florence at the birth of the Renaissance.
Born around 1386, Donatello studied with the
Stonemasons' Guild, but he went out on his own before
turning 17. An innovator, he is known for his life-like,
dramatic and emotional figures.
He was a friend of Brunelleschi, and he accompanied the
architect on his trip to Rome, where he studied the
characteristics of the classical style in sculpture. He
worked 90 days to help produce the 12-foot model of
Brunelleschi's dome, which was required to win the
competition for the contract to build the real thing.
Donatello was a popular artist during his lifetime, producing
work both for the Medici and for the Catholic church.
When he retired, he was given an allowance by the Medici
for the rest of his life.
His early work, as seen in the Annunciation (above), shows
an individualistic Mary, frightened by the angel and
captured in the process of turning to escape. Despite her
clothes, you get the sense that there's a living, breathing
human being under their folds.
The sculpture is an example of Donatello's relief style of
producing a three-dimensional effect from a flat surface.
His David was the first nude statue created since classical
times. The bronze suggests the coming of the high
Renaissance, with its triumphal, though pensive, stance over
the head of Goliath.
And, finally, his Mary Magdalene is something totally
unknown at the time, an almost modern psychological
evocation of the ravages of sorrow for sin and of extreme
Donatello's influence on the art of sculpture continued over
200 years and is still felt in the art world.
Sculpture of the artist at
1450s, Museo dell'Opera
del Duomo, wood.
Donatello's David, 1408,
Donatello's Annunciation, 1435, Santa Croce,
gilded serena stone.