Donatello

Donatello, real name Donato of Niccolo di Betto Bardi (Florence, 1386 – Florence, December 13, 1466), was an Italian sculptor, painter and goldsmith

With his long career, he was one of the three fathers of the Florentine Renaissance, along with Filippo Brunelleschi and Masaccio, as well as one of the most celebrated sculptors of all time. He made a fundamental contribution to the renewal of the sculpture’s ways, definitively setting aside the experiences of the late Gothic and overtaking the models of classical Roman art, with the expression of a new and restless expression that pervades his best works. Invented the “stitched” style, based on minimal millimeter thickness variations, which does not prevent the creation of an illusory space , And mastered the most varied techniques and materials (marble, serene stone, bronze, wood, terracotta) He also devoted himself to drawing, providing models, for example, to some stained glass of the Florence Cathedral

Particular was his ability to infuse humanity and psychological introspection to works, often with dramatic accent or energy and vitality retained but perfectly visible

Born in Florence in 1386, son of Niccolò di Betto Bardi, woolen carder unrelated to the Bardi family comedy. His was a modest family: his father, restless, led a tumultuous life, having first participated in the revolt of the Ciompi of 1378 And then to other actions against Florence, which led him to be condemned to death and then forgiven with the condemnation of the punishment; A very different character from his son so minute, gentle, elegant and delicate enough to be led by the name of Donatello According to Vasari, the young man was educated in the house of Roberto Martelli

The first documented mention dates back to 1401, when Pistoia was reported to be unfortunate enough to have beaten a German named Anichinus Pieri, causing rather serious injuries. There was a conviction that in the event of recurring recurrence he would have led to a fine money laundering There are no other episodes of violence involved, although in many anecdotes of the biographers a rather passionate temper is passed. The presence in Pistoia could be related to the work of young Filippo Brunelleschi and the workshop of Lunardo di Mazzeo and Piero di Giovanni for l ‘Altar of San Jacopo, perhaps in the role of garzone-apprentice

A training as a goldsmith, then very common for anyone wishing to undertake any artistic career, is supported only by evidence such as this and is unsafe. In 1402, until 1404, he was in Rome with Brunelleschi, his eldest of about ten years , To study the “ancient” An intimate relationship of friendship between the two was established and the roman residence was crucial to the artistic events of both. They could observe the copious ancient remains, copy them and study them for inspiration. Vasari tells how the Two wandered in the deserted city in search of “pieces of capitals, columns, frames and building stands,” digging when they saw them coming out of the ground. The rumors began to circulate soon and the couple were called to enjoy “treasure” Since it was thought that they dug in search of buried treasures, and indeed in some occasions they found precious materials such as some camomile or hard stone intag Greasy or even a jug full of medals

In 1404, Donatello had already returned to Florence alone, to collaborate in the workshop of Lorenzo Ghiberti until 1407, to create wax models for the northern gate of the Baptistery. This paid activity, linked to metal processing, also made suppose Knowledge of the rudiments of goldsmith’s activity In 1412, a note in the register of the corporation of painters indicates it as “goldsmith and stonecutter”

Donatello’s first artistic works gravitate around the two largest sculptural decoration yards in Florence at that time: the Duomo, in particular the facade and the gate of the Almond, and the niches of Orsanmichele

His first documented work is the pair of Prophets paid in 1406 and 1408, which was generally identified with the two statues that were placed on the Gate of the Almond and now in the Museum of the Opera of the Cathedral These two works are however very different in style And one does not even look like a prophet but is like an angel One of the two is now commonly attributed to Nanni di Banco, with whom Donatello could have started an artistic association, committing himself to collecting for his work, what’s more Which unusual in the craft shops of the time

Following the attribution of the marble David to the Bargello Museum, always for the Opera of the Duomo of Florence, carved in 1408-1409 for the tribune of the choir of the Duomo, from 1416 to Palazzo Vecchio The work is in full size and shows a Remarkable artistic ability, despite the still-Gothic-inspired posture and some proportional errors

Between 1409 and 1411 he executed the San Giovanni Evangelista for a niche located at the side of the central portal of the Duomo, with three other evangelists the San Marco of Niccolò di Pietro Lamberti, San Luca di Nanni di Banco and San Matteo by Bernardo Ciuffagni Donatello, in his evangelist, reacted to late-gothic mannerism, not only relying on the noble composure of ancient statuary, but by searching for passages of authentic humanity and truth: the face of the saint with his crowned forehead (perhaps taken up by a Jupiter Capitol’s head) was still based On the idealization, the shoulders and the bust were geometrically simplified according to a semicircular skirt, in the lower parts of the figure the stylization curtailed for the benefit of greater naturalness: the hands were realistic and the skirts that wrap their legs exhaled their limbs without hiding them; The statue with its force of retaining force was an important model for the Moses of Michelangelo

Very controversial is the dating of the “peasant” crucifix of Santa Croce, at the center of a curious anecdote narrating by Vasari nelle Vite, which recorded an artistic competition with Filippo Brunelleschi. Today it is generally placed among the young works carved between 1406 and 1408 Before his trip to Rome, due to his dramatic expressivity, Others place him in 1412 or even deny the paternity to the great sculptor, but arguing less convincing and openly opposed to Vasari’s testimony than to some stylistic elements

Brunelleschi reproached his friend for having put a “peasant” on the cross, devoid of solemnity and of proportional beauty that made himself a sacred subject. Challenged to do better Brunelleschi sculpted the Crucifix of Santa Maria Novella, set according to a studied gravitas, The sight of which Donatello was so impressed that he dropped the eggs he was carrying in his lap

The comparison between the two crucifixes is exemplary to show the personal differences between the two fathers of the Florentine Renaissance, who despite the intent of communion had very different personal artistic conception of art, if not sometimes opposed. The Christ of Donatello is built by emphasizing the suffering and The human truth of the subject, perhaps in accordance with the demands of the Franciscans. The suffering body is composed of an energetic and vibrant model, which does not allow for aesthetic convenience: agony is underlined by the contractual features, the mouth open, the eyes Semi-open, unformed composition

From 1411 he worked on the niches of the church of Orsanmichele, surely creating two statues, San Marco (1411-1413) and San Giorgio (1415-1417), for as many arts of Florence as they had the task of providing for external decoration With statues of their patron saints Vasari reports to Donatello also St. Peter, but stylistic dissonances tend to attribute the work to Filippo Brunelleschi

San Marco was commissioned by the Art of Linaioli and Rigattieri and is considered to be the first Renaissance sculpture in the artist’s journey, although the restoration has rediscovered superficial gildings of rather gothic taste. Unmistakable is the force pervading from the gaze and the likelihood Devoid of rigidity, which became one of the most appreciated features of Donatello’s art

These features are even more developed in San Giorgio, an absolute first masterpiece, where a few small details (compass of the compass legs, firmness of the bust shielded to the shield, snap to the left of the head) fully transmit an idea of ​​retained energy as if The figure could move from one moment to the next

In the relief at the base of the tabernacle, San Giorgio frees Princess Donatello inserted the first known example of striated and the oldest representation of a background set according to the rules of the central perspective to single point of escape, theorized in 1416 by Brunelleschi But if Brunelleschi’s perspective was simply a way of organizing the space around the figures, for Donatello, who centers on the escape point on the figure of St. George, it is a way to highlight the center of action, as if the figures were to generate space

A third statue for Orsanmichele, no longer in place since 1459, is the San Ludovico of Toulouse (1423-1425) in bronze gilded, today at the Museum of the Holy Cross Opera. It was destined to the tabernacle of the Guelfa Part, then surrendered to the Tribunal of Merchant that placed the Incredulity of St. Thomas of Verrocchio, but the Corinthian niche is the original one of Donatello and aid, among which probably Michelozzo. The work, not particularly loved by a part of criticism from Vasari, is Important for the recovery of the lost wax casting technique, which was first used here by Donatello in a large opera, although he carefully crafted several separate pieces and then assembled. Over time, the use of this technique for Donatello became Growing, becoming almost exclusive in the years of maturity

From 1415, immediately after the end of San Marco, Orsanmichele Donatello was recruited again from the Opera of the Duomo, to attend the sculptural decoration of Giotto’s Campanile, which at that time had reached the niches of the third level. The west and south sides were Already finished by Andrea Pisano and his collaborators in the previous century, so we devoted ourselves to the east side, that towards the apses

In 1408 Nanni di Bartolo, a collaborator of Donatello, had already carved a bearded Prophet (now no longer identifiable) so that the next statue was entrusted to Donatello and was the Prophet imberbe (1416-1418), followed by the thoughtful Prophet and the Sacrifice of Isaac (1421) These works demonstrate how Donatello was inclined to emphasize a strong realism and a profound expressive intensity in his sculptures, as well as his mastery of optical techniques to bring the statues at a remarkable height from below. The best succeeded Of the group is the Sacrifice of Isaac, where the two figures, closely joined, are composed according to a vibrant dynamism given by the twist of their bodies, which also emphasize the exact moment in which Abraham receives the intimation of the divine angel to stop as He seems to point his gaze upward

The decoration on the north side, the worst because it was hardly visible as it was close to the wall of the cathedral, started a little later, from 1420 to 1435 For this part, Donatello, now full of his artistic abilities, carved two masterpieces Like the Zuccone (the Prophet Abacuc from 1423) and Jeremiah (in 1427). In these statues Donatello enjoyed an extraordinary psychological penetration, both in the highly expressive faces and in the attitude of the body, underlined by a deep and majestic dress for the First, vibrant and vibrant for the second, highlighting their inner torments

At the end of the work, the Workers of the Duomo were so pleased with the works that placed them on the west side, the most important being parallel to the facade, moving the oldest ones of Andrea Pisano and shop

The Marzocco of the piazza della Signoria dates back to 1418-1420 Also in the figure of the Florentine hereditary Donatello, who here experienced the sculpture of serene stone, learned to infuse a great majesty through the chiaroscuro effects in the contracted face and through the gesture, calm and solemn , To put the paw on the shield

In 1423, as he was working with the Prophets for the bell tower, Donatello received a first important commission outside Florence, being invited to participate in the baptismal font decoration in the Baptistery of Siena, along with six other artists including Lorenzo Ghiberti and Jacopo della Oak tree

For this commission he provided the bronze panel of the Banquet of Herod by 1427, which particularly pleased the clients, who immediately gave him the task of realizing the two full-length statues of Faith and Hope (1427-1429)

Towards 1426 Donatello fused the tomb slab of Giovanni Pecci to the Siena Cathedral, in bronze

Returning to Florence, in 1424-1427 he created the San Rossore Reliquary, a golden bronze opera that revolutionized the medieval tradition of relics, creating a true “portrait of the Roman” portraiture, with distinct and individual features and with a subtle workmanship , Well visible in the care of details such as hair, beard, fabric texture and soldier armor

In 1425 he started the bottlenecks between Donatello and Michelozzo, which lasted for almost all the thirties, with a number of important works realized in co-operation Michelozzo was about ten years younger than Donatello and was a good sculptor and architect. Donatello was already an undisputed master of sculpture. Moreover, Michelozzo had a less stingy character than his colleague, so he usually devoted himself to the resolution of daily matters related to social issues. In the 1427 cadastre Michelozzo made the denunciation of income for himself and for Donatello Document are revealed the age of the sculptor (41 years) and facts of his private life as the information he lived with his mother, sister and son and that he was late for two years for the payment of rent

From 1425 to 1427 Donatello collaborated with Michelozzo at the funeral monument of antipope John XXIII, Baldassarre Coscia, in the baptistery (1425-1427); Surely Donatello is the bronze figure of the deceased lying beneath a shell enclosing a Madonna with the Child, the upper part is framed by an open canopy, while below it is a plate with reliefs of winged genes and the name and charges of the deceased , Even more than three reliefs depicting the Virtues. In the same period there are also the monuments for Cardinal Rainaldo Brancaccio (sent by sea to the church of Sant’Angelo in Nile in Naples) and that for Bartolomeo Aragazzi, in the Duomo di Montepulciano (preserved only in fragments)

The relief of the Assumption of the Virgin in the tomb Brancaccio is a perfect example of streaky, rich in expressivity and vibrant energy At the end of the 1920s and the middle of the thirties are attributed to them various similar reliefs in technique and stylistic rendering, although in some Cases the attribution is uncertain

Among them are the Baptism of Christ for the baptismal font of the Cathedral of Arezzo (post 1425), the delivery of the keys, perhaps in the Brancacci Chapel in Florence (circa 1430), Madonna Pazzi di Berlino (1425-1430) and Madonna delle Clouds of Boston (circa 1430)

In July 1428, Donatello and Michelozzo received another important assignment for the creation of the external pulpit for the Duomo of Prato, to be used for public relics of the Sacred Cingolus. A first contract was signed by Michelozzo on behalf of both and you A deadline for the work was expected within 15 months, a clause that was greatly sought after, since they continued, despite the repeated protests of the buyers, until most of the 1930s. Now it almost unanimously tends to attribute to Michelozzo the entire architectural part and In Donatello the relief of dancing pats, at least in the drawing, since sculpture is not always up to the master’s hand and was probably made with the help of various aids

In this long period, the two artists were also occupied by many other assignments and also found time to make a long trip to Rome In the fall of 1432 Donatello was surely in the papal city when a letter was sent to convince him to return from the clients In Rome Donatello and Michelozzo worked safely at least two works: the tombstone of Giovanni Crivelli in Santa Maria in Aracoeli (1432) and the Tabernacle of the Sacrament (1432-1433) today in the sacristy of the Beneficiates in St. Peter in the Vatican Recentissima (2005 ) Is the discovery and presentation of another work of the Roman period, the Virgin with two crowns and cherubs, which would be the fragment of a lunette from the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena in the basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, where many artists worked

Threatened to be sanctioned with a fine, Donatello returned to Florence in May 1433, dedicating himself to numerous incomplete works, including the Prophets of the Campanile

The pulpit pads date back to after the trip (a new contract was originally signed in 1434) and features elements of the early Christian and Romanesque tradition, such as the mosaic background. The frenetic scenes of dancing pats were probably inspired by ancient sarcophagi with Dionyssian scenes (two fragments Perhaps studied by Donatello are now in the Uffizi), but they also had a biblical value illustrating Psalms 148-150 where they are invited to praise God by choirs and children’s dances The reliefs were mounted in the summer of 1438 and in September Paid the payment to Donatello

After the completion of the pulpit, the traces of collaboration between the two artists are lost: Michelozzo began to devote himself increasingly to architecture, becoming the architect of Cosimo the Elder in the 1940s; For Donatello, however, the long period of the apotheosis of his artistic career opened uninterruptedly

As soon as he returned from Rome, Donatello also signed a new contract (dated 10 July 1433) with the Opera of the Duomo, to design one of the two cantories (the first was laid out in 1431 at Luca della Robbia). This organ balcony, which Found above the door of the Sacristy of the Canonics in the southeast corner of the cruise, was completed only in 1438 and represents a new masterpiece

The bathtub is supported by five shelves, to which there is a pair of columns in the tub that support a lintel; This architectural framework is detached from the bottom, where there is a continuous frieze with freneticly intent on dancing on the mosaic background (a quotation from the façade of Arnolfo di Cambio del Duomo himself). The frieze composition is built on diagonal lines, in contrast to The vertical lines of the structure, giving the complex a strong sense of movement The figures of the putti are depicted in the most diverse positions, according to Leon Battista Alberti’s varietas theory The result is that of an extraordinary dynamism stemming from these contrasts, which It exalts the movement as a joyful release of the physical energies The bastards seem to be launched in a race that even the architectural score does not brake (as in Prato’s pulpit), but rather exalts besides the glittering whale of the vitreous pastes of the background, richer and more colorful than those Of the prairie work, accentuates the sense of movement and the imaginative variety of decorative elements , Even on the parapet, on the base and on the shelves Nothing more different than the serene and quiet classical composure of the twin work of Luca della Robbia

All in all, the work was inspired by both ancient sarcophagi and Byzantine ebony bonnets, in particular the arrangement of the columns remembers the early Christian sarcophagi, while their decoration and that of the backdrop recall the Tuscan works of the twentieth century. They probably crowned the cantata the two Putti reggicandela del Jacquemart-André Museum, in bronze

In 1434 he also surprisingly won a contest for the design of a stained glass window of the dome of Santa Maria del Fiore, featuring the Coronation of the Virgin

In about 1435 he performed the Annunciation for the Crossing Cavalcanti of Santa Croce. The work marks a deviation from the solemn and dynamic style of Donatello, which here created a scene of great sweetness and measured beauty

The rich gold ornamentation of the magazine does not in any way affect the calm concentration of sacred encounter The two protagonists, the Angel and the Virgin, are high relief and are represented at the moment immediately following the angelic appearance. The Virgin is harvested moderately Surprise and has a controlled reaction His figure is modeled according to the anatomical ideals of the ancients, but surpasses the ancient art for the expressiveness of the deepest emotions: Wirtz speaks of “animated interiority and abstract spirituality”, which the ancients did not know The Angel , Kneeling in front of her, looks at her timidly and with gentleness, establishing a tight visual dialogue that makes the scene extraordinarily light and lively

The Old Sacristy was the private funeral chapel of the Medici family in the fifteenth century, built by Filippo Brunelleschi between 1421 and 1428 and decorated by Donatello from 1428-29 First Donatello sculpted perhaps the rounds of Stories of Saint John the Evangelist Only in 1434, after the death of Giovanni di Bicci and the return of Donatello from Rome and Cosimo de ‘Medici from the exile of Padua, the sculptor resumed the work, which was to be completed in 1439 when the chapel was home to important ceremonies Religious, and in any case were all complete in 1443, the year of Donatello’s departure for Padua

Certainly Donatello’s works in the Sacristy were eight monumental medallions in polychrome stucco (215 cm in diameter, at that time only comparable to the large windows of the basilicas), with Stories of Saint John the Evangelist, patron of the Chapel (Resurrection of Drusiana, Martyrdom, Vision to Patmos and Ascension), and four rounds with Evangelists (John, Mark, Matthew and Luke), two stucco overlapping (Santi Stefano and Lorenzo, Santi Cosma and Damiano) and two bronze doorways (Martyrs Gate Gate of the Apostles)

Brunelleschi was not pleased with Donatello’s work at his Sacristy: they were about to dodge that decorative essentiality of which he was a promoter, and he did not like being asked not even for an opinion: it was the end of friendship and collaboration between The two genes of the early Renaissance Donatello’s work was criticized for the “excessive” expressiveness also by Filarete, who in a passage of the Treaty of Architecture (1461-1464) does not recommend making figures of apostles like those of Donatello in the door of the Sacristy of St. Lawrence, “who look shielded”

About 1440 is the bronze David of the Bargello This work was perhaps made for the courtyard of Palazzo Medici on commission of Cosimo de ‘Medici (returned to Florence in 1434), and intended to represent both the biblical hero symbol of civic virtues, Part Mercury with Argo Donatello’s recessed head gave an intellectual and refined interpretation of the human figure, the festoon with Gothic-style friezes originated perhaps from a camel of Medici collections David’s statue was designed to be seen by Most points and was the first naked body depicted all round and without being subordinated to an architectural element after the classical age

Along the same years and the same cultural climate is the statuette with Love-Attys, now preserved at the Bargello, where many attributes are not yet fully clarified. The work, probably born for a private educated and refined patron, has A vital and wildly joyful character, interspersed with pagan culture

Perhaps this period also dates back to the Bust of a young man with cloche now at the Bargello

During this period Donatello showed a preference towards bronze that became more and more pronounced later, especially in the Padua period. It was perhaps the tempting possibility to work with this stimulating and expensive material that pushed the sculptor to leave Florence

Various works are placed in the period immediately preceding the departure for Padua. Among these the San Giovanni Battista for the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice is the only dated with relative certainty for the arrival of the date of 1438 during the restoration, but His style is very unusual for this period, with a strong expressiveness that had been linked to old age works such as the Maddalena penitent

This period refers to the bust-portrait of Niccolò da Uzzano in terracotta (Bargello) and the Madonna with Child and Madonna Piot, two terracotta works at the Louvre

In 1443, Donatello left for Padua, where he would remain an entire decade, creating some of his absolute masterpieces. Vasari reports that the sculptor was on the invitation to create a statue of the condemned Gattamelata deceased that year, although modern criticism tends to place the commission Of the famous equestrian statue at a slightly later period, towards 1446

The reasons why Donatello left was not clear, but in 1443 he was forced to leave his Florentine shop, as he was in the Medici district, where the Medici palace was to be built, requiring demolition. Here the sculptor paid rent virtually Symbolic and the possibility of an imminent eviction would have encouraged him to leave the city The hypothesis that Donatello had moved upon the invitation of the rich Florentine banker in exile Palla Strozzi is not supported by any feedback

Padua, from an artistic point of view, was certainly more provincial than Florence at the time, but it was home to a large university, which had developed a surprising modernity since the end of the 14th century, which immediately received the instances of Florentine humanism. Century before Giotto, another Florentine man, had left his masterpiece, the Scrovegni Chapel in the city, and looking closer at Donatello at the time, there were numerous Tuscan artists active in the Venetian city between the thirties and forties of the fifteenth century: Filippo Lippi (1434-1437), Paolo Uccello (1445) and the sculptor Niccolò Baroncelli (1434-1443)

The first documented work of Donatello in Padua is the Crucifix of the Basilica of the Holy, a monumental bronze piece that is now part of the altar of the saint in the basilica of St. Anthony of Padua, but which at that time had to be born as an independent work In 1444 the wax was purchased for the model and in 1449 the last payment was paid for the work The figure of Christ is modeled with great precision in anatomical yield, proportions and expressive intensity, sharpened by a dry and dry cut Of the abdomen’s muscles The head is a masterpiece for yielding in the smallest details, with beard hair and meticulously shaped hair and for the harsh but composed emotion of suffering in the moment near the earthly

Meanwhile, Donatello also worked on the enclosure fence

Perhaps thanks to the positive response of the Crucifix, in 1446 received an even more imposing and prestigious commission, the construction of the altar altar of the Basilica of Saint, composed of almost twenty reliefs and seven bronze statues all round, to which he worked until Departure from the city Of the very important complex, the original architectural structure, dismantled in 1579, was lost, and knowing the extreme attention with which Donatello defined relations between the figures, the space and the viewer’s point of view, it is clear that It is a significant loss

The statues all round are the Madonna and Child, the saints Francesco, Antonio, Giustina, Daniele, Ludovico and Prosdocimo. These include the four reliefs with Episodes of the life of St. Anthony (aides Bartolomeo Bellano and Riccio) and some reliefs Minors, such as the forms of the four symbols of the Evangelists and the twelve putti

The altar, decomposed in 1591 for the resettlement of the presbytery, was arbitrarily rebuilt by Camillo Boito in 1895; The original trim had to appear as a Sacred Conversation where the Virgin with the Child and the Six Saints were placed on a shallow canopy, placed in turn on an ornate base on the forehead and on the back with notes including the four with the scenes of the Saint Anthony’s Life Madonna and Child, the fulcrum of the scene, is caught at the moment she is about to stand and show the Child to the faithful The other statues all over the world are characterized by a static solemnity with an economy of gestures and expressions Which avoids expressive tensions too strong

The reliefs, on the other hand, are more articulated and go from the serene Putti’s posture, to the moderate gestures of the dead Christ, to the desperate reaction of women in the Deposition of Christ. Four large panels illustrate the Miracles of St. Anthony and are composed in crowded scenes where The miraculous event is blended with everyday life At the center, the miraculous episode is usually placed, while in the background are the majestic backdrops of extraordinarily profound architectures, despite its very low relief. Numerous themes are derived from ancient monuments, but what The most striking is the crowd, which for the first time becomes an integral part of the representation The Miracle of Asina is tripartite by arcs in sight, not proportionate to the size of the groups of figures, which amplify the solemnity of the moment The Miracle of the repented child is Set in a kind of circus, with the sloping lines of the stairs that point to the look of the head Torpedoes to the center The miracle of the heart of the dagger boasts a tight narration that shows at the same time the key events of the story by bringing to the observer’s eye a circular motion driven by the arms of the figures In the Miracle of the Infant who speaks, finally, some Figures on the top floor, placed in front of the pillars, are larger because they project illusionistically towards the spectator

In the Stone Deposition, perhaps on the back side of the altar, Donatello reworked the ancient model of Meleagro’s death; The space is canceled and composition remains only the sarcophagus and a unified screen of sore figures, disrupted by the features due to facial mimicry and exasperated gestures, with a dynamism accentuated by the contrasts of the lines generating, above all, sharp angles

It is probable that in 1446 the commission was commissioned by the heirs of the captain of the fortune Erasmo da Narni, called Gattamelata (died in 1443), to make the equestrian monument of the leader in the square in front of the basilica of the saint The bronze work was completed in 1453 Before it was started, it was necessary for a concession granted by the Venetian Senate, since it was conceived as a cenotaph, a funeral monument, not containing the remains of the leader, to celebrate the fame of the dead. There are no precedents for these types of monuments: 14th-century equestrian statues, none in bronze, usually covered the tombs; There are precedents in painting, among them the Guidoriccio da Fogliano by Simone Martini and Giovanni Acuto by Paolo Uccello, but Donatello probably more than these inspired to classical models: the equestrian statue of Marco Aurelio in Rome, the Regisole, from which Took inspiration for the static, and the Horses of St. Mark, from which he resumed the way the horse advancing with the muzzle down

In the work, placed on a tall stand, the figure of man is idealized, in fact it is not a true portrait of the old and sick man before death, but an ideal reconstruction, inspired by Roman portraiture, but with a precise identification Physiognomy, certainly not casual The leader, with his legs stretched on the brackets, fixes a point away and holds the stick of the command in an oblique position that with the sword in the sheath, always in oblique position, counterpoint the horizontal lines of the horse And to the vertical of the leader, accentuating the forward movement. The monument made a prototype for all the subsequent equestrian monuments erected in Italy, then in Western Europe and all over the world, up to the twentieth century

Starting from Padua at the end of 1453, in 1454 Donatello returned to Florence On November 15 of that year he rented a house with an adjoining storehouse in Piazza del Duomo, corner via de ‘Servi where today there is a tombstone

The return to Florence was not easy, because during his absence the dominant taste had evolved and he had become little disposed towards his art. Donatello was an artist outside the time mode and continued to move outside of the paths Of the stylistic convention The creative force did not abandon it even in old age, as evidenced by masterpieces such as Giuditta and the pulpit of San Lorenzo, created over seventy years, though with the help of numerous assistants

Between 1453 and 1455 he made the Maddalena penitent, a wooden opera of the Museum of the Opera of the Cathedral, which perfectly exemplifies the repression of the forms of the last period of Donatello, towards an expressionist overcoming of the classicism of which Donatello was the principal representative in Youth In this work physical beauty is denied, privileging dramatic and pathetic values; The skeletal body is unconscious by the mass of hair; From fat face, sorrow, and tired soul emerged from his face. Above all in his old age, he left every pre-established model to represent the deeper feelings of the human soul

About 1453-1457 is the group with Judith and Holofernes The bronze group represents Judith Veil, who after having drunk Holocaust, is about to decapitate it; In the basement there are three bas-reliefs with vintage potters and scenes of drunkenness Perhaps the statuary group was used as a wine source: in fact, at the corners of the pillow there are four holes The statue, started for the Cathedral of Siena, was placed in the garden of the Medici Palace In Via Larga, finally settled in Palazzo Vecchio, after the palace sack after the second expulsion of the Medici Perhaps it was commissioned by Piero de ‘Medici called the Gottoso, in memory of Cosimo il Vecchio The work is signed OPUS DONATELLI FLO [RENTINI] on the pillow, rotated in relation to the base so that their corners do not coincide, creating a motion effect The structure of the work is pyramidal, with the vertex of the face of Judith Ieratus and the sword blade straight from the right arm of ‘Heroine bent at ninety degrees, another focal point is the head of Holofernes where the diagonals of the group converge The work is crossed by several symbolic values: as simb (Continence that cuts lust), as a celebration of the power of the Medici, and finally as a commemorative emblem (the republic that destroys the tyrants)

It was up to this period perhaps also the sarcophagus of Niccolò and Fioretta Martelli in San Lorenzo, Florence Before 1456 it is Madonna Chellini, born as a bas-relief and mold together

In 1457 Donatello moved to Siena, probably with the idea of ​​settling permanently to spend his old age

Here he brought with him the Saint John the Baptist, perhaps cast in 1455: the artist sold him to the workers of the Duomo, but without his left forearm, a condition that made him think of problems on the compensation

Here he was probably entrusted with the task of creating the bronze doors for the Duomo (which is perhaps a test of the Christ of the Victoria and Albert Museum), but also in this case the agreement had to be escaped and the sculptor left it, Disappointed or perhaps tired, for Florence in 1459 In order not to offend, the Sienese left a round depicting a Madonna with Child (now identified in Madonna del Perdono)

Last Florentine order was the two bronze pulpits for the church of San Lorenzo, a work done with the aid of participation (Bartholomew Bellano and Bertoldo di Giovanni), but designed by him in all its parts. This work emphasizes the religious office that It pushes the figures towards extreme drama, realized through the technique of the non-finished, in which some parts of the figures are just blown. It is not known how much this is knowing Donatello’s work, but it is also a fact in others Works attributed to the master (such as the London Lament) and fits perfectly with the raw emotions and the expressiveness of the artist’s last stage scenes. It often seems to be in the face of a sketch, a jet representation

Space is dealt with unconstitutional freedom: the figures disappear behind the edges or overtake them, invade the upper and lower frame, walk through the separation elements that scintillate the scenes, projecting to the spectator with remarkable illusionism

In accordance with the archetype of artist’s life, it is said that Donatello spent his last few days, abandoned by artistic fortune and proven by old age and sickness. Vasari reports that Donatello in the last years of life was incapable of working and nailed to bed

He died in Florence in 1466 He was buried in the basements of the basilica of San Lorenzo, near Cosimo il Vecchio, in the singular and prestigious location beneath the altar Among the men who carried the coffin was Andrea della Robbia

34 renters fled to his death and this triggered reflections on his actual state of poverty, but the question seems to be related to his total disinterest in financial matters, to which he devoted his entire life to the minimum indispensable Many anecdotes testify to his attitude, such as that at the time of his flourishing shop he used to hang a basket full of money to which his assistants could freely draw according to his own needs. The remuneration he received for his works suggests that In life she had secured earnings and it also seems that Cosimo de ‘Medici had granted him a lifetime of weekly earnings

The techniques and methods of the relief were essentially the same since the times of Andrea Pisano and his Battistero door (1330-1336) and in the early 1400s Lorenzo Ghiberti was the undisputed master of this art But during the second decade Donatello developed innovations that revolutionized the technique of relief and seemed amazing to the contemporaries This is the stitched relief, which Vasari also praised, which was based on the flatness and the variation of infinitesimal thicknesses, which recalled the works of graphics through thin Play of lights and shadows the figures could be arranged in an illusory depth where groups of figures, landscapes and architectural elements overlapped one behind the other in countless overlapping, impossible with traditional techniques

In the reliefs of Donatello there is also the first coherent application of the central perspective, whose discovery is attributed to Brunelleschi (around 1416), but to which Donatello may have contributed. According to Brunelleschi’s biographer Antonio Manetti, the two artists visited Rome together And they carried together innumerable architectures on striped paper, in designs that were initially understandable to Filippo only. But the fast learning of Donatello is evidenced by the youthful relief of St. George releasing the princess (circa 1417), which for the first time shows, Much earlier than the works of Masaccio and Paolo Uccello, the novelty of the linear perspective with a central escape point Brunelleschi himself seems to proceed to a first draft of his theories only in 1420

A difference with other “obsessed” artists from the perspective of Paolo Uccello was that Donatello was able to self-limit and select his own expressive means, depending on the task he had to deal with. From this comes the extraordinary variety in Donatello’s works There are absolutely no repetitions and simple variations of success patterns No pair in the form of the Martyrs’ Gate or the Apostles resembles another and even in the most crowded scenes, such as the Miracles of the altar of St. Anthony of Padua, The hundreds of people depicted are always different and often lacking any prior model

In his artistic career, a continuous deepening and evolution of the repertoire is evident, with a remarkable preliminary study of each new work and the evaluation of the specific demands and effects desired

Vasari therefore has no doubt in asserting that Donatello raised the art of relief to a new level and this opinion is considered by modern art historics still valid

Donatello was contemporary of Cosimo il Vecchio who, like him, reached a venerable age by dying in 1464, only two years before the great sculptor Vasari witnessed the knowledge between the two, which had to last for more than fifty years, evolving with time in a Friendship and mutual esteem If Donatello, the son of a card reader, managed to enter the graces of such a rich and powerful man as Cosimo is a clear proof of how social prestige could reach a well-known artist in Florence in the fifteenth century

Curiously, however, there is no direct document from Donatello’s work by Cosimo or his family, but many of his sculptural works are surely the result of the patronage of Casa Medici Among these, surely there are some relief panels, the decorations of the Sacristy Old, David, Judith and Holocaust, the Sanctuaries of St. Lawrence

It seems that in the deathbed Cosimo reminded of Donatello, giving him a country estate near Cafaggiolo He was, however, unattractive to the country life and asked Piero de ‘Medici to resume the gift, which, with fun, was accepted And switched to a weekly life span

Donatello was known since the early theoreticians as one of the fathers of the “revival” of the arts of the fifteenth century, the first who had managed to match the great sculptors of antiquity, according to the historical scheme (in the ages for many centuries) that saw the Middle Ages As a period of artistic decadence Even in 1481 Christopher Landino in the Apology posed Donatello like the ancients and Giorgio Vasari in the two editions of Vita (1550 and 1568) emphasized how his work was more similar to Roman artists than to others Immediately preceding masters

But there were no critical voices about his work, such as that of his friend Filippo Brunelleschi. The works of the late period, with the crude and expressive style, were criticized in the sixteenth century, to be gradually re-evaluated only in the 20th century. Many years his works, already placed outside, have been replaced by copies and adored in the museums

But already Vasari wrote the biography of Donatello and the catalog of his works miscalculated in various mistakes, which over time stratified The inaccurate judgments were facilitated by the dismantling or decontestualization of the original places of individual sculptures, such as the cantoria or altar of the Holy This made ever more difficult to get an idea of ​​his work In 1886, for example, during the celebrations in Florence for the cinquecentennial from birth, authentic and documented masterpieces were confused with works by other authors, reaching such a level of Astrusitude that it was now possible to attribute any work to any material

Since then, artistic historiography has begun a selection and reconsideration of the catalog, clearing the field from the old mistakes. Still today, studies can be said to be nothing but concluded, especially for large periods where the known documentation is particularly poor

There are some portraits of Donatello that essentially relate to the painting on the table of the five Perspective Fathers (circa 1470), already attributed to Paolo Uccello and kept at the Louvre in Paris Donatello, next to Giotto, Paolo Uccello, Antonio Manetti and Filippo Brunelleschi. Portrait with a long white beard on the goatee and a turban that was then taken up in the engravings for the 1568 edition of the Vives of Vasari, and in the XVII century portrait for the Jedi Series There is also a possible youth portrait of Donatello in the Chapel Brancacci, in particular in the Massage-style fresco of San Pietro which rises with the shadow (1425-1427), where the bearded character with his hands to the left of Pietro Nello himself fresco a character with the white beard behind Peter resembles the portrait Donatello’s posture, but is not consistent with the age that the master had to have at that time