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Italian Sculptor

Donatello Photo
Movement: Early Renaissance

Born: c. 1386 - Florence

Died: December 13, 1466 - Florence

"He may be said to have been the first to illustrate the art of sculpture among the moderns."

Giorgio Vasari

Summary of Donatello

Donatello would become known as the most important sculptor to resuscitate classical sculpture from its tomb in antiquity, through an invigorated style that departed from the Gothic period's flat iconography. He broke ground by introducing new aesthetics in line with the time's flourishing move toward Humanism - a movement that emphasized a departure from medieval scholasticism and favored deep immersion into the humanities, resulting in art that no longer focused solely on the secular realm of religion but explored man's place in the natural world. Donatello's signature lifelike and highly emotional works would place him as one of the most influential artists in 15th century Italy, and an early forefather to the Italian Renaissance.

Key Ideas

Donatello's work was highly influenced by the revival of interest in the sciences, mathematics, and architecture that was taking place in Florence. This included the use of one point perspective to create a new kind of bas-relief for architectural works and a precise anatomical correctness for his figures.
The figure was a central point of mastery for the artist, and he was in fact the first to reintroduce the nude sculpture. With the addition of realistic proportion, emotionality, and expression to his subjects whether they be mythic, historical, or everyday people, he created works that conveyed a genuine reality over the idealized imagery of before.
Donatello was a prolific master of many mediums including stone, bronze, wood, stucco, clay, and wax. He was the first to illustrate the art of sculpture among the modern artists. His versatility and ingenuity would lay a foundation for many future sculptors looking to discover new possibilities in materiality.
<i>Five Famous Men</i> by an unknown 15th century artist - from left: Giotto, Paolo Uccello, Donatello, Antonio Manetti et Filippo Brunelleschi.

Fiercely exclaiming "Speak, damn you, speak!" as he sculpted, Donatello created The Prophet Habakkuk (1423-25). Celebrated for its radical realism, the Early Renaissance masterpiece also prefigured later movements.

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