Essay by adeway agleydayHigh School, 12th gradeA+, November 1996

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Donatello (1386-1466) was a master of sculpture in bronze and marble and was one of the greatest Italian Renaissance artists of his time.

A lot is known about his life and career but little is known about his character and personality. He never married and seems to be a man of simple tastes. Patrons often found him hard to deal with and he demanded a lot of artistic freedom. The inscriptions and signatures on his works are among the earliest examples of classical Roman lettering. He had a more detailed range of knowledge of ancient sculpture than any other artist of his time. His work was inspired by ancient visual examples which he often transformed, he was really viewed as a realist but later research showed he was much more.

Early career. Donatello was the son of Niccolo di Betto Bardi, a Florentine wool carder. It is not known how he started his career but probably learned stone carving from one of the sculptors working for the cathedral of Florence about 1400.

Some time between 1404 and 1407 he became a member of the workshop of Lorenzo Ghiberti who was a sculptor in bronze. Donatello's earliest work was a marble statue of David. The 'David' was originally made for the cathedral but was moved in 1416 to the Palazzo Vecchio which is a city hall where it long stood as a civic-patriotic symbol. From the sixteenth century on it was eclipsed by the gigantic 'David' of Michelangelo which served the same purpose. Other of Donatello's early works which were still partly Gothic are the impressive seated marble figure of St. John the Evangelist for the cathedral and a wooden crucifix in the church of Sta. Croce.

The full power of Donatello first appeared in two marble statues, 'St. Mark'...