Donatello (about 1386 – 1466) is one of the four masters of the Italian Renaissance. His contribution is recongized even to this day by art historians and artists. His work is undiniably impressive. He was a master in not just one medium, but perfected all of the ones artists used during the 15th century. Donato, as was his real name, sculpted with marble, stone, bronze and wood. He used terracotta and stucco as well as mixed media. The fact that he worked with all available material, made Donatello a master who never repeated himself. Donatello – A master of Renaissance, is a fair title for the man who changed art forever, risking even his own life in the process.
THe started working for Lorenzo Ghiberti, and at the age of twenty, Donatello won his own commissions. His first remarkable job was in 1411 when he started work on a statue of Saint Mark. After his early success, Donatello started working on a number of commissioned works, mostly statues. His unique style and lifelike statues were later adopted by another great master, Michaelangelo.
Donatello spent most of his life in Florence, but he also traveled to Rome and other cities around Italy. He had patrons from all over the country, however his most important one was Cosimo Medici. For the Medici family Donatello created some of his most important works. Among them is the bronze statue of David. Today, historians consider the bronze David statue to be the first major sculpture of the Renaissance era.
His other important works include the Gattamelata (a political leader) in Padua, a bronze Crucifix and a Madonna with Child, both of which were for the Basillica of St Anthony, also in Padua. His work was so popular, that after his retirement he received a retirement allowance from the Medici family. After his retirement he continued to sculpt and he lived with the Medici family, which he so much loved. He died in December of 1466, leaving some unfinished works, which his student Bertoldo di Giovanni completed. Donatello left behind a huge volume of works and a heritage for artists to come, which we admire to this day.
If you want to learn more about the great artist, you can watch our episode on YouTube, dedicated to him.