Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (c. 1386 – 13 December 1466), better known as Donatello (English: /ˌdɒnəˈtɛl/[2] Italian: [donaˈtɛllo]), was an Italian[a] sculptor of the Renaissance period. Born in Florence, he studied classical sculpture and used this to develop a complete Renaissance style in sculpture. He spent time in other cities, and while there he worked on commissions and taught others; his periods in Rome, Padua, and Siena introduced to other parts of Italy his techniques, developed in the course of a long and productive career. Financed by Cosimo de' Medici, Donatello's David was the first freestanding nude male sculpture since antiquity.

Cinque maestri del rinascimento fiorentino, XVI sec, donatello.JPG
Donatello, in a 15th-century portrait by an unknown artist[1]
Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi

c. 1386
Died13 December 1466(1466-12-13) (aged 79–80)
Republic of Florence
EducationLorenzo Ghiberti
Known forSculpture
Notable workSaint George, David, Equestrian Monument of Gattamelata
MovementEarly Renaissance
David at the Bargello, in Florence

He worked with stone, bronze, wood, clay, stucco, and wax, and had several assistants, with four perhaps being a typical number. Although his best-known works mostly were statues in the round, he developed a new, very shallow, type of bas-relief for small works, and a good deal of his output was larger architectural reliefs.

Early lifeEdit

Donatello was the son of Niccolò di Betto Bardi, who was a member of the Florentine Arte della Lana. He was born in Florence, probably in the year 1386. Donatello was educated in the house of the Martelli family.[4] He apparently received his early artistic training in a goldsmith's workshop,[citation needed] and then worked briefly in the studio of Lorenzo Ghiberti.[5]

In Pistoia in 1401, Donatello met the older Filippo Brunelleschi. They likely went to Rome together around 1403, staying until the next year, to study the architectural ruins. Brunelleschi informally tutored Donatello in goldsmithing and sculpture.[6] Brunelleschi's buildings and Donatello's sculptures are both considered supreme expressions of the spirit of this era in architecture and sculpture, and they exercised a potent influence upon the artists of the age.

Work in FlorenceEdit

In 1409–1411 he executed the seated figure of Saint John the Evangelist.

In Florence, Donatello assisted Lorenzo Ghiberti with the statues of prophets for the north door of the Baptistery of Florence Cathedral, for which he received payment in November 1406 and early 1408. In 1409–1411 he executed the colossal seated figure of Saint John the Evangelist, which occupied a niche of the old cathedral façade until 1588, and now is placed in the Museo dell' Opera del Duomo. This work marks a decisive step forward from late Gothic Mannerism in the search for naturalism and the rendering of human feelings.[7] The face, the shoulders, and the bust are still idealized, while the hands and the fold of cloth over the legs are more realistic.

In 1411–1413, Donatello worked on a statue of St. Mark for the guild church of Orsanmichele. In 1417 he completed the Saint George for the Confraternity of the Cuirass-makers. From 1423 is the Saint Louis of Toulouse for the Orsanmichele, now in the Museum of the Basilica di Santa Croce. Donatello also sculpted the classical frame for this work, which remains, while the statue was moved in 1460 and replaced by the Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Verrocchio.

Between 1415 and 1426, Donatello created five statues for the campanile of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, also known as the Duomo. These works are the Beardless Prophet; Bearded Prophet (both from 1415); the Sacrifice of Isaac (1421); Habbakuk (1423–25); and Jeremiah (1423–26); which follow the classical models for orators and are characterized by strong portrait details. In 1425, he executed the notable Crucifix for Santa Croce; this work portrays Christ in a moment of agony, eyes, and mouth partially opened, the body contracted in an ungraceful posture.

Pazzi Madonna (1425-1430), marble bas-relief in stiacciato, Bode Museum, Berlin

From 1425 to 1427, Donatello collaborated with Michelozzo on the funerary monument of the Antipope John XXIII for the Battistero in Florence. Donatello made the recumbent bronze figure of the deceased, under a shell. In 1427, he completed in Pisa a marble relief for the funerary monument of Cardinal Rainaldo Brancacci at the church of Sant'Angelo a Nilo in Naples. In the same period, he executed the relief of The Feast of Herod (c. 1427) and the statues of Faith and Hope for the Baptistery of San Giovanni in Siena. The Feast of Herod is mostly in stiacciato (a very low bas-relief), with the foreground figures done in bas-relief, and is considered one of the first examples of one-point perspective in sculpture.[citation needed]

During the period 1425-1430 the Pazzi Madonna was created. It is a rectangular marble bas-relief sculpture, also in stiacciato. Its original owner is not known, but the work is thought to have been commissioned for private devotion by a resident of Florence.[8] It is in the collection of the Bode Museum in Berlin, Germany. It was copied frequently and admired for the tender nature of the depiction of the Virgin Mary and her smiling infant child.

Donatello also restored antique sculptures for the Palazzo Medici.[9]

Bronze DavidEdit

Donatello's bronze David, now in the Bargello museum, is his most famous work, and the first known free-standing nude statue produced since antiquity. Conceived fully in the round, independent of any architectural surroundings, and largely representing an allegory of the civic virtues triumphing over brutality and irrationality, it is arguably the first major work of Renaissance sculpture. It was commissioned by Cosimo de' Medici for the courtyard of his Palazzo Medici, but its date remains the subject of debate. It is most often dated to the 1440s, but dates as late as the 1460s have support from some scholars. It is not to be confused with his stone David, with clothes, of about 1408–09.

Some have perceived the David as having homoerotic qualities and have argued that this reflected the artist's own orientation.[10] The historian Paul Strathern makes the claim that Donatello made no secret of his homosexuality, and that his behaviour was tolerated by his friends.[11] The main evidence comes from anecdotes by Angelo Poliziano in his "Detti piacevoli", where he writes about Donatello surrounding himself with "handsome assistants" and chasing in search of one that had fled his workshop.[12] This may not be surprising in the context of attitudes prevailing in the 15th- and 16th-century Florentine Republic. However, little detail is known with certainty about his private life, and no mention of his sexuality has been found in the Florentine archives (in terms of denunciations)[13] albeit which during this period are incomplete.[14]

Rome, Prato, and VeniceEdit

When Cosimo was exiled from Florence, Donatello went to Rome, remaining until 1433. The two works that testify to his presence in this city, the Tomb of Giovanni Crivelli at Santa Maria in Aracoeli, and the Ciborium at St. Peter's Basilica, bear a strong stamp of classical influence.

Donatello's return to Florence almost coincided with Cosimo's. In May 1434, he signed a contract for the marble pulpit on the facade of Prato cathedral, the last project executed in collaboration with Michelozzo. This work, a passionate, pagan, rhythmically conceived bacchanalian dance of half-nude putti, was the forerunner of the great Cantoria, or singing tribune, at the Duomo in Florence on which Donatello worked intermittently from 1433 to 1440 and was inspired by ancient sarcophagi and Byzantine ivory chests. In 1435, he executed the Annunciation for the Cavalcanti altar in Santa Croce, inspired by 14th-century iconography, and in 1437–1443, he worked in the Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo in Florence, on two doors and lunettes portraying saints, as well as eight stucco tondos. From 1438 is the wooden statue of St. John the Baptist for Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice.

In PaduaEdit

In 1443, Donatello was called to Padua by the heirs of the famous condottiere Erasmo da Narni (better known as the Gattamelata, or "Honey-Cat"), who had died that year. Completed in 1450 and placed on the left side of the square facing the Basilica of St. Anthony, his Equestrian Monument of Gattamelata was the first example of such a monument since ancient times. (Other equestrian statues, from the 14th century, had not been executed in bronze and had been placed over tombs rather than erected independently, in a public place.) This work became the prototype for other equestrian monuments executed in Italy and Europe in the following centuries.

For the Basilica of St. Anthony, Donatello created, most famouslywhy?, the bronze Crucifix of 1444–47 and additional statues for the choir, including a Madonna with Child and six saints, constituting a Holy Conversation, which is no longer visible since the renovation by Camillo Boito in 1895. The Madonna with Child portrays the Child being displayed to the faithful by Mary who is whether standing nor sitting on the throne that is flanked by two sphinxes, an allegorical figure of knowledge. On the throne's back is a relief of Adam and Eve. During this period—1446–50—Donatello also executed four importantwhy? reliefs with scenes from the life of St. Anthony for the high altar. He remained in Padua until 1453, when he returned to Florence.



Title Form Material Year Original location Current location
Crucifix Statue Wood, polychromed 1407–1408 Florence, Santa Croce Florence, Santa Croce, Cappella Bardi di Vernio
Prophet Statue Marble 1410, before Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore, Porta della Mandorla Florence, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
David (with the head of Goliath) Statue (originally with sling) Marble 1408–1409 Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore, planned for butress, Palazzo Vecchio (1416) Florence, Museo nazionale del Bargello
John Evangelist Statue in niche, sitting Marble 1408–1415 Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore, façade Florence, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
Joshua Statue (5.5 mts high) Terracotta, whitened 1410, before Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore, north tribune disintegrated
Saint Mark Statue in niche Marble 1411–1413 Florence, Orsanmichele Florenz, Orsanmichele museum
St. Louis of Toulouse Statue in niche Bronze, gilded (ormolu) 1411–1415 Florence, Orsanmichele Florence, Santa Croce (since the 1450s)
Prophets Statues in niche (two of four) Marble 1415 and 1418–1420 Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore, Campanile Florence, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
St. George (with Saint George Freeing the Princess) Statue and niche with predella in relief Marble 1416, circa Florence, Orsanmichele Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello (with niche)
Marzocco Statue Sandstone 1418–1420 Florence, Santa Maria Novella, papal apartment Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello
Pazzi Madonna Relief, low Marble 1420, circa uncertain Berlin, Bode Museum, Skulpturensammlung
San Rossore Reliquary Bust Bronze, gilded 1422–1427 Florence, Ognissanti Pisa, Museo nazionale di San Matteo
Jeremiah Statue in niche (third of four) Marble 1423, circa Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore, Campanile Florence, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
Zuccone (Prophet Habakkuk) Statue in niche (last of four) Marble 1423–1425 Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore, Campanile Florence, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
The Feast of Herod Relief Bronze 1423–1427 Siena, Baptistry of San Giovanni, Baptismal font Siena, Baptistry
Madonna of the Clouds Relief Bronze 1425-1435 Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Tomb of Cardinal Rainaldo Brancacci Tomb monument with Statues, reliefs, partly gilded and polychrome Marble 1426–1428 Naples, Sant'Angelo a Nilo Neapel, Sant'Angelo a Nilo
Dovizia (on the Colonna dell'Abbondanza) Statue on column Marble (with a working bell) 1431 Florence, Piazza della Repubblica deteriorated and destroyed in a fall in 1721 (replaced with a version by Giovanni Battista Foggini that was replaced by a copy)
David (with head of Goliath) Statue Bronze, partly gilded 1430s–1450s (?) Florence, Casa Vecchia de' Medici Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello
Pulpit, Cantoria Pulpit with high reliefs Marble, mosaic, bronze 1433–1438 Florence, Santa Maria del Fiore Florence, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
Pulpit, external Reliefs Marble 1434–1438 Prato, cathedral Prato, Cathedral Museum
Old Sacristy (doors, lunettes, tondi and frieze) Reliefs, low Bronze (doors), polychromed stucco 1434–1443 Florence, San Lorenzo Florence, San Lorenzo
Cavalcanti Annunciation Relief, high, in an aedicula Pietra serena (Macigno) and terracotta, whitened and gilded 1435, circa Florence, Santa Croce Florence, Santa Croce
John the Baptist Statue Wood, painted partially gilded 1438 Venice, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari Venice, Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
Amor-Attys (Notname) Statue Bronze 1440, circa Florence Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello
Penitent Magdalene Statue Wood and stucco pigmented and gilded 1440–1442 (?) Florence Florence, Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
Madonna and Child Relief, low Terracotta, pigmented 1445 (1455) unknown Paris, Louvre
Equestrian Monument of Gattamelata Statue, equestrian monument Bronze 1445–1450 Padua, Piazza Sant'Antonio Padua, Piazza Sant'Antonio
High altar with Madonna with Child, six statues of Saints and four episodes of the life of St. Anthony Statues (seven) and 21 reliefs Bronze (and one stone relief) 1446, after Padua, Basilica di Sant'Antonio Padua, Basilica di Sant'Antonio (reconstruction)
Judith and Holofernes Statue group Bronze 1453–1457 Florence, Palazzo Medici, garden Florence, Palazzo Vecchio
John the Baptist Statue Bronze 1455, circa Siena, Cathedral Siena, Cathedral
Virgin and Child with Four Angels or Chellini Madonna Relief, low, tondo Bronze, gilded 1456, before Florence London, Victoria and Albert Museum
Pulpits, one with scenes of the Passion, one with post-Passion scenes Reliefs Bronze 1460, after Florence, San Lorenzo Florence, San Lorenzo

2020 discoveryEdit

In 2020 art historian Gianluca Amato, as part of his research on wooden crucifixes crafted between the late thirteenth and the first half of the sixteenth century for his doctoral thesis at the University of Naples Federico II, discovered that the crucifix of the church of Sant'Angelo a Legnaia was sculpted by Donatello.

This discovery has been evaluated historically, considering that the work belonged to the Compagnia di Sant'Agostino that was based in the oratory adjacent to the mother church of Sant'Angelo a Legnaia. Silvia Bensì performed restoration work on the crucifix.[15][16][17][18]

In popular cultureEdit

Donatello is portrayed by Ben Starr in the 2016 television series Medici: Masters of Florence.[19]

The fictional crimefighter Donatello, one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, is named after him.

Donatello is portrayed by Rhett McLaughlin in the 2014 Epic Rap Battles of History video Artists versus Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, in which he appears working on Gattamelata and is mocked for being less famous than other Renaissance artists. [20]

The Donatello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) built by the Italian Space Agency, was one of three MPLMs operated by NASA to transfer supplies and equipment to and from the International Space Station. The others were named Leonardo and Raffaello.


  1. ^ Though an Italian nation state had yet to be established, the Latin equivalent of the term Italian (italus) had been in use for natives of the region since antiquity.[3]


  1. ^ Unknown master, Italian (active late 15th century). "CINQ MAÎTRES DE LA RENAISSANCE FLORENTINE" [Five masters of the Florentine renaissance]. Le Louvre. (Note: historic attribution of this picture to Paolo Uccello is no longer accepted.)
  2. ^ Wells, John (3 April 2008). Longman Pronunciation Dictionary (3rd ed.). Pearson Longman. ISBN 978-1-4058-8118-0.
  3. ^ Pliny the Elder, Letters 9.23.
  4. ^ Rubin, Patricia Lee (January 1995). Giorgio Vasari: Art and History. p. 350. ISBN 9780300049091.
  5. ^ Walker, Paul Robert (2003). The Feud That Sparked the Renaissance. New York: William Morrow. pp. xi. ISBN 9780061743559.
  6. ^ Walker, Paul Robert (2003). The Feud That Sparked the Renaissance. New York: William Morrow. pp. 26, 30, 34. ISBN 9780061743559.
  7. ^ Horst W. Janson, The Sculpture of Donatello, Princeton, 1963, p. ?page needed.
  8. ^ (in German) Wirtz, Rolf C., Donatello, Könemann, Colonia 1998. ISBN 3-8290-4546-8
  9. ^ Hesson, Robert (28 July 2019). "Collections and restoration of antiquities – Ancient Monuments". Northern Architecture. Retrieved 21 September 2020.
  10. ^ H. W. Janson, The Sculpture of Donatello, Princeton, 1957, II, 77–86; Laurie Schneider, "Donatello's Bronze David," The Art Bulletin, 55 (1973) 213–216.
  11. ^ Paul Strathern, The Medici: Godfathers of the Renaissance, London, 2003
  12. ^ Michael Rocke, Forbidden Friendships: Homosexuality and Male Culture in Renaissance Florence[page needed]
  13. ^ Joachim Poeschke, Donatello and His World. Sculpture of the Italian Renaissance, Volume 1, Harry N Abrams, New York 1993, p. ?
  14. ^ Louis Crompton, Homosexuality and Civilization, Harvard Press, 2003, p. 264.
  15. ^ Mugnaini, Olga (6 March 2020). "'Quel crocifisso ligneo è di Donatello', la sensazionale scoperta a Firenze". La Nazione (in Italian). Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  16. ^ "Studioso scopre Crocifisso inedito di Donatello". Adnkronos. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  17. ^ Salzano, Marco Pipolo & Guido. "E". – QA turismo cultura & arte. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  18. ^ "Crocifisso di Donatello nella chiesa di Legnaia, la storia". Isolotto Legnaia Firenze (in Italian). 6 March 2020. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  19. ^ "Medici: Masters of Florence". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 24 December 2016.
  20. ^ ERB. "Artists vs TMNT. Epic Rap Battles of History". YouTube. Retrieved 13 February 2022.

  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Donatello". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 8 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 406–408.

Further readingEdit

  • Avery, Charles, Donatello: An Introduction, New York, 1994.
  • Avery, Charles, Donatello. Catalogo completo delle opere, Firenze 1991.
  • Avery, Charles and McHam, Sarah Blake, "Donatello". Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press. (subscription required)
  • Bennett, Bonnie A. and Wilkins, David G., Donatello, Oxford 1984.
  • Coonin, A. Victor, Donatello and the Dawn of Renaissance Art, Reaktion Books, London, 2019.
  • Greenhalgh, Michael, Donatello and His Sources, Holmes & Meier Pub., 1982.
  • Hartt, Frederick and Wilkins, David G., History of Italian Renaissance Art (7th ed.), Pearson, 2010.
  • Janson, Horst W., The Sculpture of Donatello, Princeton University Press, 1957.
  • Leach, Patricia Ann, Images of Political Triumph: Donatello's Iconography of Heroes, Princeton University Press, 1984.
  • Olson, Roberta J.M., Italian Renaissance Sculpture, 1992, Thames & Hudson (World of Art), ISBN 978-0500202531
  • Randolph, Adrian W.B., Engaging Symbols: Gender, Politics, and Public Art in Fifteenth-Century Florence. Yale University Press, 2002.
  • Vasari, Giorgio, Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettori Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, Firenze 1568, edizione a cura di R. Bettarini e P. Barocchi, Firenze, 1971.
  • Wilson, Carolyn C., Renaissance Small Bronze Sculpture and Associated Decorative Arts, 1983, National Gallery of Art (Washington), ISBN 0894680676

External linksEdit