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date: 05 July 2022

Donatello [Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi]free

(b Florence, 1386 or 1387; d Florence, Dec 13, 1466).

Donatello [Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi]free

(b Florence, 1386 or 1387; d Florence, Dec 13, 1466).
  • Charles Avery
  • , revised by Sarah Blake McHam

Updated in this version

updated and revised, 25 July 2013; updated bibliography, 16 September 2010; updated and revised, 31 March 2000

Italian sculptor. He was the most imaginative and versatile Florentine sculptor of the early Renaissance, famous for his rendering of human character and for his dramatic narratives. He achieved these ends by studying ancient Roman sculpture and amalgamating its ideas with an acute and sympathetic observation of everyday life. Together with Alberti, Brunelleschi, Masaccio and Uccello, Donatello created the Italian Renaissance style, which he introduced to Rome, Siena and Padua at various stages of his career. He was long-lived and prolific: between 1401 and 1461 there are 400 documentary references to him, some for nearly every year. However, there is no contemporary biography, and the earliest account, in Vasari’s Vite (1550), is confused.

I. Life and work

1. Training and early work, before 1409.

The earliest record of Donatello’s artistic career is his apprenticeship to Lorenzo Ghiberti between 1404 and 1407, when the latter was engaged in preparing the models for the bronze reliefs on the north doors of the Baptistery in Florence. This would have given him a grounding in Late Gothic style design as practised by Ghiberti and in the techniques of modelling in wax and clay, in preparation for casting in bronze. However, Ghiberti was not a marble-carver and Donatello must have acquired this skill elsewhere, probably in the flourishing workshops of Florence Cathedral, where his earliest documented sculptures, two small marble statues of Prophets for the Porta della Mandorla (1406), are found. Two years later, in 1408, Donatello was commissioned to carve a full-size marble statue of David (Florence, Bargello) to crown one of the cathedral buttresses. This was his first major statue and took several years to carve. It was never erected on the buttress but was acquired in 1416 by the City Council of Florence for display as a civic emblem in the Palazzo della Signoria—a sign of their early recognition of Donatello’s talent. It was painted, gilded and set on a pedestal inlaid with mosaic and must have looked highly ornamental. This would have appealed to the then current taste for Late Gothic art. All traces of colour are now lost and the statue looks rather bland. Its most remarkable feature is the head of Goliath lying at David’s feet: it is carved with great assurance and reveals the young sculptor’s genuinely Renaissance interest in an ancient Roman type of mature, bearded head.

Also in 1408, Donatello was the youngest of four sculptors to receive a commission to carve an over life-size seated figure of an Evangelist for each of the four niches flanking the great western portal of Florence Cathedral (see Florence Cathedral (Duomo)). His St John the Evangelist (Florence, Mus. Opera Duomo) took until 1415 to finish, perhaps because he chose to pioneer a new style of maximum realism and psychological impact. The broad swathes of drapery in the Evangelist’s toga serve as a foil for the enlarged, relaxed hands and the noble, bearded head. Donatello also deliberately distorted the proportions of the figure in order to compensate for the effects of foreshortening, when it was seen from below by passers-by—a most sophisticated device. The torso is unnaturally elongated and looks unstable when seen straight on (as in many of the standard photographs), but it has a solid pyramidal appearance when a lower viewpoint is adopted, corresponding with that of an observer when the statue was in its original niche. Giovanni Pisano had made the heads of his Prophets (after c. 1284) for the façade of Siena Cathedral jut forward pronouncedly, to make them more visible from below, but he did not adjust their proportions. Donatello was acutely conscious of the settings of all his statues, and this may be counted as a Renaissance tendency. According to Vasari, Donatello is also supposed at this early stage of his career to have carved and painted a wooden Crucifix for Santa Croce, Florence (in situ), but its attribution is no longer universally accepted.

2. Florence, Pisa and Rome, 1409–42.

(i) Statuary and portraiture.

In 1411, while still at work on the St John, Donatello was commissioned by the Arte dei Linaioli (Linen Drapers’ Guild) to carve a different Evangelist, this time standing, for their niche on the guildhall of Orsanmichele. The ponderation of the resultant statue of St Mark (marble, 1411–13; in situ), which gives him an air of authority, is derived from ancient Roman figures of senators: the weight-bearing leg is emphasized by parallel folds of drapery (like the flutes on a Classical column) and is clearly differentiated from the relaxed leg, only the knee of which can be seen through the thick wrinkles of the toga. The saint stands on a cushion, a totally unrealistic idea, but one that permitted Donatello to indicate the weight of the figure by the indentations made by the feet. The cushion may also have referred to the products of the textile guild that commissioned the statue. A radical contrast in style may be remarked between Donatello’s completely Renaissance St Mark and Ghiberti’s contemporaneous, but still very Gothic, bronze statue of St John the Baptist (1412) in a niche nearby.

Florence, Orsanmichele, niche figure of St George by Donatello, marble, c. 1414 (Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello); photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Soon afterwards, perhaps around 1414, the Arte dei Corazzai (Guild of Armourers) ordered from Donatello a marble statue for Orsanmichele of their patron, St George (Florence, Bargello), a knight in armour and thus an advertisement for their wares. This has always been one of Donatello’s most admired statues. The sculptor overcame a difficult problem, for the unyielding metal plates of armour did not permit him to express the potential movements of the limbs and body inside. Donatello could only use the pose to hint at them: St George is balanced expectantly on the balls of his feet. Otherwise Donatello could express emotion only in the face and the hands, protruding from the armour. In the clenched right-hand fist a hole indicates that the knight once held a weapon, probably a sword fashioned in gilt-metal, as it would have been impossible to carve it out of marble. ‘In the head’, Vasari wrote, ‘there may be seen the beauty of youth, courage and valour in arms, and a proud and terrible ardour; and there is a marvellous suggestion of life bursting out of the stone.’

The success of the statues of St Mark and St George encouraged the Guelph party to commission from Donatello a yet more ambitious one of their patron, St Louis of Toulouse. The statue (c. 1418–22; Florence, Mus. Opera Santa Croce) is in gilded bronze, the most glamorous—and the most expensive—sculptural material. To meet this complex technical challenge, Donatello called on the expert assistance of Michelozzo, an experienced metallurgist, who until then had been working with Ghiberti. The crinkly drapery of the voluminous cope gives vivacity to what might otherwise have been a rather bland figure of a youthful bishop: the figure was to be so large that, for technical reasons, the cope had to be modelled, and then cast and gilded, in several separate sections. This must have inspired the artist to give it a life of its own. The gloves, mitre and crozier—even the face—were also made separately and fixed together over an iron armature inside the figure. The brightly gilded masterpiece was installed in a Brunelleschian, Renaissance niche on Orsanmichele in 1422.

Late in 1415 Donatello began work on two life-size marble statues of ProphetsJeremiah and Habakkuk—for some niches high on Giotto’s Campanile. (The originals, weathered by centuries of exposure, are now in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo and have been replaced with modern copies on the Campanile.) These statues were the earliest of a whole series, the execution of which lasted until the end of the mid-1430s; for the sake of speed, some were carved in collaboration with other sculptors. They were to be seen high above eye-level, so their features and drapery had to be boldly chiselled, yet their movements were constricted by the narrow lancet shapes of the pre-existing niches. Donatello met this challenge by adapting the plastic forms of drapery that he had had to model in wax or clay for his St Louis to the different medium of marble; gnarled hands and wizened faces—some quite hideous, but all the more moving—express the pathos of these Old Testament prophets, whose messages were rarely heeded. Their heads look like portraits. They are clearly indebted to ancient Roman ancestor busts and statues but are further enlivened by Donatello’s fertile imagination and minute observation of his fellow men.

Donatello’s interest in ancient Roman busts is demonstrated by a gilt-bronze reliquary for the head of the Early Christian martyr St Rossore (Pisa, Mus. N. S Matteo), a relic that reached the friars of Ognissanti in Florence in 1422. St Rossore (also known as St Lussorio or Lussurgiu) was a soldier who was beheaded under the Roman emperor Diocletian; thus Donatello’s choice of the classic bust form used by the Romans to commemorate their ancestors was particularly appropriate. This form had survived in the Middle Ages as a container for head relics, but the faces had tended to be purely symbolic. Donatello, on the contrary, endowed his saint with lifelike, though imaginary, features and, with its knitted brow, an expression of intense anxiety appropriate to a victim of execution. This is the first datable example of a revival of the Roman type of realistic bust.

Two other undated and undocumented busts are generally associated with Donatello: one in bronze, like the St Rossore, shows a handsome youth in Classical guise, with a cameo (the original of which was owned by the Medici) around his neck (Florence, Bargello). It is very like the bronze statue of David (Florence, Bargello) that the sculptor produced later in his career for Cosimo I de’ Medici and has similar, Neo-Platonic overtones (see §I, 4 below). The other bust, modelled in terracotta and realistically painted (Florence, Bargello), may represent the patrician Niccolò da Uzzano (1359–1431). Its identification and attribution are still debated. The most recent proposal is that Desiderio da Settignano was responsible for it. Most scholars still support an attribution to Donatello. Cleaning revealed the high quality of its modelling and painting. It remains uncertain whether the artist portrayed the sitter from life, or after his death, using a mask cast from the face and then revitalized by retouching the clay before it finally set. In either case, this is probably the earliest true portrait bust of the Renaissance, predating by a considerable number of years that of Piero de’ Medici by Mino da Fiesole (1453; Florence, Bargello), often claimed as the first. It is more likely that the credit for such a significant re-invention should go to an artist of greater calibre than Mino and occur at a date earlier than the middle of the century, by which time the Renaissance was well under way.

Portraiture was also Donatello’s major personal contribution to a commission that he undertook c. 1424 jointly with Michelozzo (by then his business partner): the monumental tomb of Baldassarre Coscia, the Anti-Pope John XXIII (d 1419; Florence, Baptistery). Donatello himself must have been responsible for the ennobled rendering of the fleshy, care-worn face and complex drapery of the effigy, which was cast, like the St Louis, in bronze and then gilded. The design of the wall monument, which was inserted between two of the Roman columns supporting the Baptistery, is an early manifestation of Renaissance architecture and is probably joint work, for Michelozzo was the more architecturally minded (though Donatello’s personal involvement with architecture dates back to 1419, when he submitted an unsuccessful model to the competition for the cupola of Florence Cathedral). The carving of the marble components of the Anti-Pope’s tomb was delegated to their assistants. The harmonious composition of the various elements, such as the effigy on a bier, the sarcophagus, the Virgin and Child in the lunette above and the division of the background into panels, were to inspire all the major 15th-century tomb monuments in Tuscany and Rome, which have collectively been called ‘the humanist tomb’ (Pope-Hennessy). Donatello was thus involved in yet another major innovation in Renaissance sculpture and architecture.

The most enigmatic of Donatello’s sculptures both in treatment and in dating—for it is absolutely undocumented—is the nearly nude bronze David (Florence, Bargello), which stood on an ornamental pedestal in the centre of the newly built courtyard of the Medici palace. Recently, it has been proposed that, rather than dating after Padua, the David was commissioned in c. 1435–40 for the old Medici Palace and moved to the courtyard of the new one built by Michelozzo. There it was at the centre of a complex intellectual scheme comprising eight of the great marble medallions that decorate the walls of the courtyard, above the arcade. These are enlargements of important antique gems, most of which were owned by the Medici, but their meaning is obscure. It has been suggested that the nudity and sensuousness of the boy David, as well as some surprising details of his costume, none of which is derived from the biblical story, may result from a Neo-Platonic philosophical interpretation of David as an allegory of heavenly love (Ames-Lewis). (Cosimo was the founder of the Neo-Platonic Academy in Florence.)

(ii) Narrative reliefs.

Once he had mastered the art of modelling scenes in relief in Ghiberti’s workshop, Donatello applied this knowledge to a variety of minor commissions, for example some gilded decorative friezes in the old houses of the Medici, mentioned by Vasari; and probably some renderings of the Virgin and Child, which were a prerequisite of the principal bedroom in Renaissance residences and a staple product of sculptors’ workshops. It is not until 1417, however, that there is a documentary reference to a relief in a public place, one showing St George and the Dragon (Florence, Bargello), which was carved in marble on the lintel at the foot of the niche for his statue of St George on Orsanmichele. It is the first manifestation of Donatello’s interest in a form of extremely shallow relief-carving (It. rilievo schiacciato: ‘flattened-out relief’) that was more closely allied to graphic art than to sculpture (see §II below). Years of weathering have disguised the original subtlety of carving of the relief, but the receding hills and wind-battered trees in the background can still be made out. Straightforward linear perspective was also used to imply depth in the blind arcade at the right.

The next datable marble panel, the Assumption of the Virgin (Naples, S Angelo a Nilo), is on the tomb of Cardinal Rinaldo Brancacci (d 1427), which was carved by Donatello and Michelozzo at Pisa and sent to Naples. In it Donatello flattened the relief of all the figures, even the centrally enthroned Virgin, whose notionally projecting knees he had to swing sideways.

While in Pisa, Donatello was in close contact with the painter Masaccio: their work from c. 1426—notably several Madonnas—reflects mutual influences. Most Masaccioesque of all Donatello’s shallow reliefs is the lovely marble panel (London, V&A) combining two quite distinct episodes from the New Testament, the Ascension and Christ Giving the Keys to St Peter. Though it was recorded in 1492 in an inventory of Lorenzo the Magnificent’s effects in the Palazzo Medici, its earlier history is unknown. It is generally dated in the 1420s because it is composed in a way redolent of Masaccio’s fresco of the Tribute Money in the Brancacci Chapel, with a half circle of Apostles surrounding the Saviour. Both the sculpture and the fresco are populated by the same deeply serious figures, impressively modelled and individually characterized. In contrast with the usual, idealized renderings of the Virgin, which portray her still youthful, untainted by sin, Donatello dared to show her as a wizened old peasant woman with coarse hands, as she might really have looked when her son was about the age of 30. The heads of the Apostles, especially of St Peter, are dexterously gouged out of the marble on a tiny scale with amazing confidence and freedom. Distant walled cities, hilltops and receding rows of trees are scratched into the rear planes so deftly that their very sketchiness helps to suggest distance, creating an effect that is termed ‘aerial’ perspective (as distinct from linear means).

Donatello: Feast of Herod, gilt bronze relief, 1423–5, detail from the baptistery font (Siena Cathedral)

Of several other marble reliefs in the same technique attributed to Donatello, the most interesting is the Feast of Herod (Lille, Mus. B.-A.). Its subject is the same as in Donatello’s earliest documented bronze relief (1423–5), made for the parapet of the font in the baptistery of Siena Cathedral, but the treatment is very different. The marble relief is remarkable for its complicated architectural setting: Herod’s vast palace is laid out correctly in perspective across the surface of the marble panel, but the principal episode is diminished in both scale and impact. The size of the figures in the foreground—one third of the height of the total field—and several other technical features correspond closely with Alberti’s instructions for creating an ideal picture, and this seems to be a deliberate demonstration on Donatello’s part of how this theory could be put into practice. In the Sienese bronze panel (see fig.), the drama is witnessed in close focus owing to Donatello’s use of a viewpoint for his perspectival scheme that is closer and higher than normal. The principal characters are large and few in number, so that their expressions can be clearly seen. The sequence of arcades, arranged one behind another towards the background, creates an effect of great space, and it is there that the earlier episode of the actual beheading is depicted.

Donatello: Cantoria, marble, 1433–9 (Florence, Museo dell’Opere del Duomo); photo © Francesco Gasparetti / Wikimedia / CC BY 3.0

Donatello continued to be much involved with relief-carvings in the 1430s: a sacramental tabernacle in St Peter’s, Rome, its architecture peopled by angels and framing a scene of the Entombment (c. 1432); an external pulpit with panels of dancing putti for Prato Cathedral (commissioned in 1428, but delayed until 1438); and an organ loft, later turned into a Singing Gallery (Cantoria) for Florence Cathedral (1433–9). The latter was to correspond with one already commissioned from Luca della Robbia (1431), while Donatello and Michelozzo had been away in Rome. Luca had chosen logically to illustrate the verses of Psalm 150 with a series of closed compositions of child-musicians or dancers on panels separated by pilasters, with the relevant verses of the psalm incised above and below. In the pulpit for Prato Cathedral, Donatello had used a similar scheme of panels divided by pilasters, but by cutting off from view some of the limbs of his infant dancers, he suggested that they were dancing in a continuous row behind the architecture. For the Florence Cantoria, he pursued this concept further, and the putti are carved on two long slabs of marble, performing two continuous dances in a circle, physically behind the series of free-standing paired colonnettes that articulate the structure. Background and colonnettes are encrusted with mosaic tesserae to provide a colourful foil for the frieze of dancers in plain white marble. No such specific theme as Luca’s is depicted, but Donatello was probably trying to convey an ecstatic dance of the souls of the innocent in paradise.

Similar in its architectural ornament to the Singing Gallery—and also ensconced in the wall of a building—is the Tabernacle of the Annunciation in Santa Croce, Florence. It is undocumented but formed the altarpiece of a former side chapel belonging to the Cavalcanti family. Carved in deep relief out of grey sandstone (pietra serena, a favourite Tuscan building stone), it shows the two participants at life size and almost in the round, as in a tableau vivant, on a tiny stage behind a proscenium arch. For the sake of clarity, the ornamental details of the architecture and Mary’s bedchamber are picked out in gilding, and the scene is enlivened by two pairs of mischievous infants teetering on the cornice above.

Following Brunelleschi’s completion of the Old Sacristy at S Lorenzo for the Medici in 1429, and probably after the return of these patrons from a brief exile in 1433, Donatello created a series of vigorously modelled and brightly painted reliefs in the eight great roundels on its walls and pendentives, as well as in two lunettes over the doorways flanking its chancel. There are no documents for them, nor for the twin pairs of bronze doors, but since from 1433 until 1443 the sculptor was living and working in an old inn owned by the Medici, for which he was asked only a nominal rent, perhaps his work on their family mausoleum in S Lorenzo was taken for granted and his expenses met out of petty cash. On the walls the four Evangelists, accompanied by their symbolic beasts, are seen in their studies, as though through portholes. Donatello typically refused to idealize these humble folk of the New Testament, showing them instead as haggard old men, deeply absorbed in the effort of penning their gospels. They are incongruously shown seated on ornamental thrones and with desks covered with Renaissance details.

On the pendentive roundels the theme was four episodes from the Life of St John the Evangelist. Here Donatello exploited all that he had learnt about creating the illusion of perspective, either by linear or ‘aerial’ means. Several of the participants are shown only in part, as though cut off by the circumference of the roundel, a bold device that implies that the scenes continue beyond the spectator’s field of vision: this gives an effect of ‘photographic immediacy’ to the miraculous dramas. The extraordinary freedom with which the figures are modelled bespeaks a truly great artist at the height of his creative powers. It calls to mind late 19th- or early 20th-century sculptors such as Degas, Rodin or Epstein, all of whom enjoyed the feeling of life that is conveyed by quick, spontaneous modelling, the building up of an image out of ductile materials and the refraining from any attempt at finish, which would have tended to deaden the effect.

Donatello also saw the potential for casting such rough images into bronze. The doors in the Old Sacristy are decorated with pairs of saintly figures in earnest discussion or meditation, and these are only the beginning of a crescendo of production of narrative reliefs: for the high altar in the basilica of S Antonio, Padua (see §I, 3 below); for the west doors of Siena Cathedral (never cast); and for the twin pulpits in the nave of S Lorenzo, Florence, produced at the end of Donatello’s life (see §I, 4 below).

3. Padua, 1443–53.

In 1443 Donatello left Florence for Padua, where he stayed for a decade. His first commission was for a life-size bronze Crucifix (1441–9) for the rood screen in the basilica of S Antonio (the Santo): he modelled a strongly muscled, but idealized mature male body, departing from Gothic prototypes, which had tended to stress the physical anguish of the crucifixion. Shortly afterwards, a bequest enabled the friars to project a new high altar: regrettably Donatello’s architectural and sculptural masterpiece was dismantled a century later, but the bronze statuary survives and the general scheme seems to be reflected in the composition of Mantegna’s S Zeno Altarpiece (Verona, S Zeno). Beneath an open tabernacle of ornamental, classicizing form, with eight columns and a curved pediment with volutes at either end, were disposed seven life-size bronze statues. A central Virgin and Child (in an unusual pose recalling local, Byzantine art) was flanked in a sacra conversazione by six patron saints, including SS Anthony and Francis. They were modelled and cast with freedom, and not highly finished, as they would never have been visible close to or in a clear light. At the level of the predella of a normal painted altarpiece were inserted four rectangular, panoramic relief scenes of the Miracles of St Anthony. In front of imaginatively conceived, Roman architectural backgrounds, interior or exterior (their details picked out with gilding), Donatello mustered groups of amazed bystanders round the principal actions of the saint and those immediately involved, in a way reminiscent of a modern stage director. Between these four narratives were interspersed twelve panels with charming Musician Angels, and four with the Symbols of the Evangelists and one of the Dead Christ, while on the back of the structure of the altar was a great relief of the Entombment, carved in stone and inlaid with mosaic and glazed coloured strips. Here Donatello’s dramatic powers were unleashed in figures of frenzied holy women bewailing the event. Full documentation allows this major project to be followed step by step, giving an insight into the wide delegation of tasks to which Donatello had to resort in order to push work forward to completion by 1450.

Donatello: equestrian monument to Gattamelata, bronze on marble and stone base, h. 3.4 m, 1447–53 (Padua, Piazza del Santo); photo © Alonso de Mendoza / Wikimedia / CC0 1.0

Donatello’s other important Paduan commission, of a very different kind, was the creation of a bronze equestrian monument (1447–53) to Erasmo da Narni (1370–1443), known as Gattamelata, a deceased captain-general of the Venetian army (see fig.). This is the earliest surviving equestrian statue from the Renaissance. It was a revival of an ancient Roman type known at the time principally from the Marcus Aurelius in Rome. To support the great weight of the thickly cast bodies of horse and rider on only four legs was a great technical achievement: Donatello would have liked to have had one forehoof raised free, as in his ancient prototype (as well as in the Horses on S Marco, Venice, which were much nearer to Padua), but he did not dare. Instead he fell back on the device of propping it up by a cannon ball conveniently lying on the field of battle. The General is brilliantly portrayed and idealized as a heroic man of action, using a close-cropped Roman hairstyle and the Classical type of light war-horse. Details on his armour also recall antiquity, though the long broadsword and cannon ball reflect contemporary warfare. This was an image that inspired Verrocchio, challenged Leonardo da Vinci and, ultimately, in the work of Giambologna 150 years later, spread to all the great squares of Europe, as a symbol appropriate for monarchs. The end of Donatello’s stay in Padua was marred by disputes with several of his patrons over completion of his work and payment. He was much in demand elsewhere, but, in order to return to his native city, he turned down invitations from the Gonzaga in Mantua, the Este in Modena and King Alfonso I of Naples.

4. Old age, 1454–66.

By 1454 Donatello was renting a house and shop on the Piazza del Duomo in Florence. Possibly Cosimo de’ Medici had prevailed on Donatello to return, as his great new palace was nearing completion and needed some major sculptural decoration. Donatello was by then nearly 70 years old and becoming infirm, though his spirit and imagination were unbowed. He was ill in 1456, for his doctor, Giovanni Chellini (of whom there is a marble portrait bust by Antonio Rossellino, 1456; London, V&A), received in lieu of a fee an unusual bronze roundel of the Virgin and Child with Angels (London, V&A). Even so, the sculptor made substantial purchases of materials for casting bronze statuary, one example of which was the impassioned figure of St John the Baptist for a chapel in Siena Cathedral (in situ). The following year Donatello actually moved to Siena in order to work on a side chapel and on some bronze doors for the cathedral. From his stay there only a large marble roundel of the Virgin and Child over the Porta del Perdono of the cathedral, finished by assistants, survives: panels modelled in wax on wood made in preparation for casting into bronze for the doors were abandoned, and, disheartened, their author returned to Florence.

Donatello: Judith Slaying Holofernes (c. 1465), bronze, h. 2.36 m, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence; photo © Francesco Gasparetti / Wikimedia / CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1459 Donatello must have begun several major commissions for his favourite patron, Cosimo de’ Medici. Donatello’s major commission for the new Medici palace, this time for the back garden, was a large multi-figure bronze group based on an Old Testament theme, Judith Slaying Holofernes (Florence, Piazza della Signoria). It is an allegory of Humility triumphing over Pride, as is known from a lost, but recorded, inscription.

The last work for Cosimo is a series of bronze panels depicting the Passion of Christ and the Martyrdom of St Lawrence for the twin pulpits in the nave of the Medici parish church at S Lorenzo. One is dated June 1465. They are grimly realistic, abandoning all traditional restraints and the usual tendency towards idealization, glossing over the full horror of some episodes. The original wax modelling must have been vigorous and passionate: in the dramatic bronze narratives that resulted, it seems as if Donatello was so emotionally involved that he attacked the cold metal surfaces of the scenes with a savagery resulting from his personal empathy with the sufferings of the saviour. Work does not seem to have been finished at the time of Donatello’s death (1466), and several hands can be traced in the chasing. Surprisingly, in view of the artist’s fame, the panels were not installed on the pulpits until the 16th century: perhaps they were too avant-garde for mid-15th-century taste, which was more attuned to the suave, narrative style of Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise doors on the Baptistery (installed in 1452).

This constitutes the work of Donatello’s old age, apart from an undocumented painted wood statue of St Mary Magdalene (Florence, Mus. Opera Duomo), which is usually held to be a late work because of its overwrought, emotional effect. Such reasoning is no longer entirely acceptable, for a very similar, painted wooden statue of the haggard St John the Baptist (Venice, S Maria Gloriosa dei Frari), produced by Donatello for a chapel of the Florentine community in Venice, has been found, after cleaning, to be dated 1438. Perhaps it was carved at the behest of the Medici, as a thank-offering for hospitality that they had received during their brief exile there in 1433. So the sculptor was capable of such horrifically gripping imagery far earlier in his career than had previously been supposed: it was not confined to his old age.

II. Working methods and technique.

Donatello is remarkable for the sheer range of materials in which he worked: he turned his hand with equal facility, apparently, to modelling in clay, stucco or wax (nothing survives in wax, but casts from wax models in terracotta and bronze do); and to finishing bronze in the cold metal (though he did not do his own casting, but delegated it, as was normal, to specialist foundries, some of which are recorded). He carved marble and grey Tuscan sandstone (the macigno or so-called pietra serena), as well as wood, which he then painted, probably himself, to enhance its naturalistic appearance. In the Madonna dei Cordai (Florence, Mus. Bardini) Donatello used a curious technique of jigsawing the contours of a Virgin and Child out of wood and applying it to a flat background, then modelling the figures over it in a composition material. He filled the background with fictive tesserae of gilt leather to resemble mosaic (which he also used in reality on the Prato pulpit and the Cantoria) and painted and varnished the whole. He also designed, but did not execute, a stained-glass window for the drum of Florence Cathedral (Coronation of the Virgin; in situ) and, perhaps in collaboration with a member of the Barovier family of Murano, planned to make casts in glass from the reverse of the bronze roundel that he eventually gave to Dr Chellini (London, V&A).

Donatello’s principal technical innovation was in the field of relief-carving. Apparently in the late 1410s and early 1420s he devised a method of carving—almost drawing—a scene in very shallow relief, the technique known as rilievo schiacciato. Within a depth of about 10 to 20 mm, the sculptor conveyed a much greater imaginary depth by means of only very slight indentations on the surface of the marble. The contours of the figures were drawn in with the corner of a chisel and crystals of marble whittled away round the edges to leave in relief the volumes of the bodily forms. The planes of the various figures were compressed in depth, unlike the standard Roman or medieval technique, where they had been left standing out, half or more in the round, in front of a flat background. Donatello’s technique allowed the forms to merge into the background more fluently, so that a spatial continuum was suggested, as in a painting.

In the marble relief of the Assumption of 1427 Donatello invented stylized forms—almost like stratified slate—to indicate thickly massed cirrus clouds, between which angels are visible in a tumbling mass of limbs swooping through the air, as though swimming in the sea. This bold illusion may once have been heightened by touches of colour and gilding, as was normal in marble sculpture at that time. This kind of ‘aerial’ perspective was even more subtle than the use of architectural settings to provide linear means of suggesting recession through the newly discovered rules of geometrical perspective. In the larger fields of the roundels in the Old Sacristy at S Lorenzo, Donatello laid out the architectural settings with ruler and set square in the damp stucco, and then cut back the material with spatulas to indicate successive, receding planes: the spaces thus suggested were then populated with figures at various scales literally added on top. They had to be modelled around projecting nail-heads to help them adhere to the perilously inward-sloping background.

It was by exploiting linear perspective that Donatello was able to achieve a still more gripping effect of realism than his predecessors. In his reliefs, after he had initially mastered the techniques of shallow-carving or modelling, stylistic development is to be noted chiefly in the increased elaboration of groups of dramatis personae and in the boldness of movement. As his technique became accomplished and his self-confidence grew, the modelling became freer and more ‘impressionistic’—even ‘expressionistic’ on occasions, when the apparent roughness of execution reflects the emotional violence of the subject. In the series of Passion reliefs (Florence, S Lorenzo) made at the end of his life, lack of finish seems not to betray loss of control due to old age, nor yet interruption by death, but rather a supremely confident and economical use of a lifetime’s repertory of forms and motifs to indicate his intensity of feeling towards his Christian subject. Donatello could also render purity and beauty with supreme ease, for instance when depicting the Virgin (e.g. in the Annunciation or in his several reliefs showing her with the baby Jesus) or indeed the boy David. Such images were in tune with the optimistic styles of Ghiberti or Luca della Robbia, which were extremely popular in the worldly, mercantile centre that was Florence.

Donatello: St Mary Magdalene, polychrome and gilt wood, ?c. 1456–60 (Florence, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo); photo credit: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY

Where Donatello excelled, however, and where he was perhaps too demanding for his contemporaries, was in his rendering of drama and pathos, nearly always in a Christian context. The gaunt, painted wood statues of St John the Baptist (1438; Venice, S Maria Gloriosa dei Frari) and St Mary Magdalene (?c. 1456–60; Florence, Mus. Opera Duomo), as well as his bronze St John for Siena Cathedral, border on the horrific and are deliberately shocking to a casual observer. The choice of wood may reflect a wish to relate these figures to the Gothic tradition of wood-carving in Germany and the alpine regions, where it was always used expressively. The intense empathy that Donatello manifested with his chosen subjects, whether carved in wood or marble or cast in bronze, is deeply moving and is still much appreciated. The very humanity of such works retains its appeal across six centuries. But even if Donatello’s expressiveness is all his own, to some extent he was drawing on an earlier Tuscan Gothic tradition of fiercely dramatic narrative founded by Giovanni Pisano, who, where necessary, as in the Massacre of the Innocents (c. 1300; Pistoia, S Andrea), did not flinch from inflicting the full horror of the event on the spectator.

As was normal practice in the early 15th century, Donatello entered into working partnerships, either informally (as with Brunelleschi on occasions, and later with Nanni di Bartolo for several of the Prophets for the Campanile) or formally (as with Michelozzo in the mid-1420s for the co-production of tombs). He also employed assistants, though their names are not always recorded: lesser sculptors such as the bronze specialist Maso di Bartolomeo and the marble-carver Pagno di Lapo Portigiani (1408–70) moved in and out of his orbit. Vespasiano da Bisticci, in his Vita of Cosimo il vecchio de’ Medici, talked of the banker making a weekly allowance to the sculptor ‘enough for him and four assistants’, and perhaps this was the average number of personnel in Donatello’s Florentine workshop. The most informative series of archival documents about his working methods is that concerning the production during the 1440s of the high altar in S Antonio, Padua, where Donatello functioned as an impresario, managing a large team engaged on various aspects or component parts of the vast sculptural undertaking. Giovanni da Pisa, Niccolò Pizzolo, Urbano da Cortona and, ultimately, Bartolomeo Bellano are the best known of his assistants.

III. Character and personality.

Donatello left no writings or correspondence and may have been virtually illiterate, which would have been normal in the humble background from which he came: his father was a wool-carder and had been involved in the Ciompi Revolt in 1378, even being briefly exiled for murdering someone in street violence. The sculptor seems to have taken a perverse pride in his ‘working class’ origins, and his affections for the Medici may have stemmed from their being non-noble and their espousal of the popular, democratic cause. Presumably Donatello acquired his knowledge of the Bible and ancient mythology by word of mouth, especially from the Neo-platonic philosophers whom Cosimo also patronized.

In 1525 Donatello’s character was described by Summonte as ‘rough and very straightforward’ (‘rozo e semplicissimo’), which seems a fair summary. He did not aspire to a more ‘gentlemanly’ role in society, unlike his ex-master and rival Lorenzo Ghiberti, who associated himself with the literary side of humanism by penning his Commentarii. Also in contrast to Ghiberti, who vaingloriously included his self-portrait on both pairs of doors for the Florentine Baptistery (one showing him wearing the mazzocchio, the turban-like headgear of a Florentine gentleman), Donatello showed a complete lack of attention to his own appearance, as was remarked on twice by contemporaries. Manetti, in his biography of Brunelleschi, in which he described their joint, early visit to Rome, wrote:

Neither of them had family problems since they had neither wife nor children, there or elsewhere. Neither of them paid much attention to what they ate and drank or how they were dressed or where they lived, as long as they were able to satisfy themselves by seeing and measuring.

This was corroborated by Vespasiano da Bisticci in his life of Cosimo:

Since Donatello did not dress as Cosimo would have liked him to, Cosimo gave him a red cloak with a hood, and a gown under the cloak, and dressed him all afresh. One morning of a feast day he sent it all to him to make him wear it. Donatello did, once or twice, and then he put it aside and did not want to wear it any more, for it seemed too dandified for him.

Donatello was evidently a popular figure in Florence, notorious for making sarcastic, and occasionally coarse, remarks. He even featured as a speaking character in a miracle play written during his lifetime, called Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon. His delays on producing the pulpit for Prato are referred to in passing, as though they were a well-known scandal. A number of catch-phrases originating from his lips were recorded in a 16th-century anthology of more or less scurrilous tales. Some are difficult to interpret today, but the general tone is of tight-lipped, Tuscan humour, deriving from someone who was evidently renowned for his eccentricity and sharp wit. Vasari recorded various unkind remarks made to, or about, fellow artists, for example to Paolo Uccello: it is hard to tell if they were meant to be hurtful or merely sarcastically humorous. Vasari also noted the sculptor in frustration crudely swearing at his statue of Habakkuk: ‘Favella, favella, che ti venga il caccasangue’ (‘Speak, speak, or may you get bloody shit!’).

Donatello was frequently obstreperous with his patrons, particularly bodies of churchmen from outside Florence, for instance the unfortunate Cathedral Works of Prato, who had legitimate cause for complaint over his irresponsible attitude and dilatoriness in fulfilling his contractual obligations to them. Having tried to encourage him by some seasonal presents, ultimately they resorted to asking Cosimo de’ Medici to intervene on their behalf. Duke Ludovico Gonzaga used the same expedient in 1458, when he was trying to get the sculptor to finish some work for which he had made models several years earlier: in the exchange of correspondence Ludovico called Donatello ‘very tricky’ (‘molto intricato’) and admitted that he ‘had a mind made up in such a way that if he does not come, one cannot entertain any hope of it, even if one pesters him’. This is an extraordinary admission from a grand patron dealing with an artist, then normally regarded as a mere artisan. Clearly Donatello was an exception to any rule.

If Donatello’s behaviour with his patrons was exceptional, so too was the perceptive generosity of Cosimo, who seems to have recognized the artist’s sheer genius and been prepared to put up with his stubbornness and impertinence. Besides living nearly rent-free for a whole decade (1434–43) in an old inn that Cosimo had bought for eventual demolition to make way for his grand new palace, according to Vespasiano da Bisticci, in the sculptor’s old age, when work was hard to find, Cosimo gave him commissions deliberately in order to keep him busy and paid him by banker’s order on a weekly basis. This background accounts for the complete absence of documents for payment and hence firm dates for any of Donatello’s work for the Medici. Cosimo also arranged in his will that the sculptor should be looked after by his heir, Piero I (the Gouty), and given accommodation and a pension in his old age, and should eventually be buried beside him in the family vault beneath S Lorenzo. This came to pass and was an extraordinary honour.

IV. Critical reception and posthumous reputation.

Donatello’s reputation was made within his own lifetime and has remained high ever since, though with a mild waxing and waning of popularity according to the taste of successive centuries. He was counted as a friend by Cosimo de’ Medici and by Alberti, who in his De pictura (1436) listed him directly after Brunelleschi as ‘this our very great friend’ (‘quel nostro amicissimo Donato scultore’) and before Ghiberti, Luca della Robbia and Masaccio. Bartolomeo Fazio included him in his De viris illustribus (1456) as ‘excelling for his talent and no less for his technique; he is well known for his sculpture in bronze and marble, because he succeeds in giving life to the faces of his figures, and in this respect he shares the glory of the masters of antiquity’. In the same year his medical doctor Chellini noted that he was a ‘singular and principal master in making figures of bronze and wood and terracotta’. A note of criticism of some of Donatello’s more irrationally exaggerated figures on the bronze doors of the Old Sacristy was sounded by the architect–sculptor Filarete in his Trattato d’architettura (1461–4), who preferred a degree of decorum: apostles should behave like apostles and not like fencers.

In 1481 Cristoforo Landino (Apologia) praised the late sculptor highly:

Donato the sculptor is to be numbered among the men of old, admirable as he is for his compositions and his variety, and his ability with great lifelikeness to arrange and place his figures, all of which appear to be in motion. He was a great copyist of antiquity and also understood about perspective.

Amid general posthumous praise, there were occasionally subjective, though partially justifiable, criticisms. For instance, the Mannerist sculptor Baccio Bandinelli wrote in 1547 that when Donatello made the bronze pulpits for S Lorenzo he was ‘so old that his eyesight was not up to judging them properly, nor to giving them a beautiful finish, and even though they are a good invention, he never made an uglier work’. The apparent lack of finish was also criticized by Michelangelo (according to Condivi, 1553), who admired Donatello in other respects. Vasari (1568) was at pains to flatter his own patron, the Grand Duke Cosimo I, by stressing the enlightened patronage that Donatello had enjoyed from his collateral ancestor and namesake, Cosimo il vecchio. He also published an elegant literary conceit of Vincenzo Borghini’s that drew a parallel between Donatello and Michelangelo: ‘Either the spirit of Donatello works in Michelangelo; or Michelangelo’s one worked beforehand in Donatello.’ However, Vasari’s Vita of Donatello contains more than average distortions and is confusing to a modern reader because it is based not on a chronological approach so much as on a topographical one, probably because it was derived from an earlier guidebook to Florence. Certain statues such as St Mark (admired by Michelangelo) and St George (praised by Vasari) have always remained relatively popular, while others, sometimes owing to their removal around the city, became dissociated from his name, for example the St Louis, which, amazingly, was recognized only in the early 20th century.

Centenaries of the sculptor’s birth and death have been potent stimuli to reassessment in the past two centuries. That in 1886–7 was celebrated partly because it happened to coincide with the completion of the Gothic Revival façade of Florence Cathedral. It was permanently commemorated—as was the fashion at the time—with bronze portraits and inscriptions, one mounted on the north aisle of Santa Croce, the Pantheon of Florence; another on the façade of one of the several studios he used near the cathedral; and a third on a tomb in the Renaissance style (1896; complete with a bronze effigy) by Dario Guidotti (fl 1892–1900) and Raffaello Romanelli (b 1856) in the Martelli Chapel of S Lorenzo. A pioneering exhibition was mounted in the Museo del Bargello, Florence, and a number of grandiloquent speeches by eminent professors were published as pamphlets.

The beginning of modern art-historical literature on Donatello in Italian (Milanesi, 1887) was soon followed by major monographs in German (Semper and von Tschudi, both in 1887; Schottmuller, 1904; Schubring, 1907; Kauffmann, 1935). In England Lord Balcarres addressed the subject in 1903, to be closely followed by Maud Cruttwell in 1911, both giving very respectable ‘overviews’ for the educated, Anglo-Saxon general reader. In 1941 a well-illustrated Phaidon Press monograph by Goldscheider appeared. The major monograph on the artist is by H. W. Janson, incorporating the notes and photographs of Jeno Lanyi. It has gone through several editions since 1957 and consists of an exhaustive and invaluable catalogue raisonné, but without a discursive biography. The latter was supplied by a de luxe volume by Hartt, with new photographs by Finn (1973). Bennett and Wilkins (1984) published a volume of extended scholarly essays on various aspects of the sculptor’s activity.

The quincentenary of Donatello’s death, in 1966, gave rise to an international congress, the acts of which were published in 1968, and renewed interest was kindled by the rediscovery in England of the bronze roundel given in 1456 to Dr Chellini (see Radcliffe and Avery, 1976), which resulted in a number of essays addressing the question of Donatello’s reliefs of the Madonna. The sixth centenary of the sculptor’s birth, in 1986, occasioned a loan exhibition of sculpture at the Detroit Institute of Arts and the Forte di Belvedere in Florence, as well as one in the Bargello, drawn solely from its own collection, with accompanying catalogues (see 1985 and 1985–6 exh. cats) and conferences (see ‘Donatello Studien’, 1989). Also coinciding with these centenary celebrations were the publication in Italian of a volume of new photographs and catalogue entries (Pope-Hennessy, Ragioneri and Perugi, 1985) and an introductory biography (Avery, 1986). A spate of booklets and articles has since appeared, notably on some of the sculptures that were restored as a result of the sixth centenary.

Bibliography

Early sources
  • L. B. Alberti: De pictura (MS., 1436); ed. C. Grayson: Opera volgari (Bari, 1973), 3, p. 7
  • G. Chellini: Libro debitori, creditori e ricordanze (MS., 1456); ed. A. De Maddalena: ‘Les Archives Saminiati: De l’économie à l’histoire de l’art’, Annales, économies, sociétés, civilisations, 14 (1955), pp. 738–44
  • B. Facio: De viris illustribus (MS., 1456); ed. L. Mehus (Florence, 1745); Eng. trans. in M. Baxandall: ‘Bartholomaeus Facius on Painting: A Fifteenth-century Manuscript of De viris illustribus’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes [prev. pubd as J. Warb. Inst.], 27 (1964), pp. 90–107 [106–7]
  • A. Averulino [Filarete]: Trattato d’architettura (MS., 1461–4); ed. A. M. Finoli and L. Grassi (Milan, 1972), pp. 658–9
  • A. Manetti: Vita di Filippo Brunelleschi (MS., c. 1480); ed. D. De Robertis and G. Tanturli (Milan, 1976), pp. 67–9, 109–10
  • C. Landino: Apologia (MS., 1481); repr. in Dante con l’esposizione di Cristoforo Landino e di Alessandro Vellutello (Venice, 1564)
  • Vespasiano da Bisticci: Le vite (MS., ?1493); ed. A. Greco (Florence, 1970), 2, pp. 193–4
  • P. Summonte: Letter to Marcantonio Michiel (MS., 1525); ed. F. Nicolini: L’arte napoletana del rinascimento e la lettera di Pietro Summonte a Marcantonio Michiel (Naples, 1925)
  • B. Bandinelli: Letter to Cosimo I de’ Medici (MS., 7 Dec 1547); ed. G. Bottari and S. Ticozzi: Raccolta di lettere sulla pittura, scultura ed architettura, ii (Milan, 1822), p. 72
  • G. Vasari: Vite (1550, rev. 2/1568); ed. G. Milanesi (1878–85), 2, pp. 395–426
  • A. Condivi: Vita di Michelangelo Buonarroti (Rome, 1553)
General
  • W. Bode: Florentine Sculptors of the Renaissance (London, 1928)
  • J. Pope-Hennessy: Italian Renaissance Sculpture (London, 1958, rev. 3/New York, 1985)
  • J. Pope-Hennessy: Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London, 1964)
  • J. Pope-Hennessy: Essays on Italian Sculpture (London, 1968)
  • C. Avery: Florentine Renaissance Sculpture (London, 1970)
  • F. Caglioti: Donatello e i Medici: Storia del ‘David’ and della ‘Giuditta’ (Florence, 2000)
  • P. L. Rubin: Images and Identity in Fifteenth-century Florence (New Haven, 2007)
  • B. Paolozzi Strozzi, ed.: Donatello. Il David Restaurato (Florence, 2008)
Monographs
  • G. Milanesi: Catalogo delle opere di Donatello (Florence, 1887)
  • H. Semper: Donatellos Leben und Werke (Innsbruck, 1887)
  • H. von Tschudi: ‘Donatello e la critica moderna’, Rivista storica italiana, 4/2 (1887), pp. 193–228
  • Lord Balcarres: Donatello (London and New York, 1903)
  • F. Schottmuller: Donatello (Munich, 1904)
  • P. Schubring: Donatello, Klass. Kst Gesamtausgaben (Stuttgart and Leipzig, 1907)
  • M. Cruttwell: Donatello (London, 1911)
  • H. Kauffmann: Donatello (Berlin, 1935)
  • L. Goldscheider: Donatello: Complete Phaidon Edition (London, 1941)
  • H. W. Janson: The Sculpture of Donatello (Princeton, 1957, rev. 2/1963)
  • G. Castelfranco: Donatello (Milan, 1963)
  • L. Grassi: All the Sculpture of Donatello (London, 1964)
  • F. Hartt and D. Finn: Donatello: Prophet of Modern Vision (New York, 1973, 2/London, 1974)
  • A. Parronchi: Donatello e il potere (Florence, 1980)
  • M. Greenhalgh: Donatello and his Sources (London, 1982)
  • B. A. Bennett and D. G. Wilkins: Donatello (Oxford, 1984)
  • J. Pope-Hennessy, G. Ragioneri and L. Perugi: Donatello (Florence, 1985)
  • C. Avery: L’invenzione dell’umano: Introduzione a Donatello (Florence, 1986)
  • E. Settesoldi: Donatello and the Opera del Duomo in Florence (Florence, 1986)
  • M. Trudzinsky: Beobachtungen zu Donatellos Antikenrezeption (Berlin, 1986)
  • G. Morolli: Donatello: Immagini di architettura (Florence, 1987)
  • C. Avery: Donatello: Catalogo completo delle opere (Florence, 1987)
  • J. Pope-Hennessy: Donatello Sculptor (London, Paris and New York, 1993)
  • A. Rosenauer: Donatello (Milan, 1993)
  • C. Avery: Donatello: An Introduction (New York, 1994)
  • A. Calore: Contributi Donatelliani (Padua, 1996)
  • U. Pfisterer: Donatello und die Entdeckung der Stile 1430–1445 (Munich, 2002)
  • F. Petrucci: La scultura di Donatello: Tecniche e linguaggio (Florence, 2003)
Exhibition catalogues and congresses
  • Donatello e il suo tempo: Atti dell’VIII Convegno internazionale di studi sul rinascimento: Firenze, 1966
  • Italian Renaissance Sculpture in the Time of Donatello (exh. cat., ed. A. P. Darr; Detroit, MI, Inst. A., 1985); It. edn as Donatello e i suoi: Scultura fiorentina del primo rinascimento (ed. A. P. Darr and G. Bonsanti; Florence, Forte Belvedere, 1986)
  • Omaggio a Donatello (exh. cat. by P. Barocchi and others, Florence, Bargello, 1985)
  • ‘Donatello Studien’, Italienische Forschungen zur Kunstgeschichte, 3rd ser., 16 (1989)
  • Donatello e il suo tempo: Il bronzetto a Padova nel Quattrocento e nel Cinquecento (exh, cat., eds. D. Banzato and G. F. Matinoni; Padua, Pal. Ragione, 2001)
  • Earth and Fire: Italian Terracotta Sculpture from Donatello to Canova (exh. cat., ed. B. Boucher; Houston, TX, Mus. F.A.; London, V&A.; 2001–2)
  • Depth of Field: The Place of Relief in the Time of Donatello (exh. cat., ed. P. Curtis; Leeds, Henry Moore Inst., 2005)
Specialist studies
  • F. Ames-Lewis: ‘Donatello’s Bronze David Reconsidered’, Art History, 2/2 (1974), pp. 140–55
  • J. Pope-Hennessy: ‘The Medici Crucifixion of Donatello’, Apollo, 101 (1975), pp. 82–7; repr. in J. Pope-Hennessy: The Study and Criticism of Italian Sculpture (Princeton, 1980), pp. 119–28
  • M. L. Dunkleman: Donatello’s Influence on Italian Renaissance Painting (diss., New York U., Inst. F.A., 1976)
  • J. Pope-Hennessy: ‘The Madonna Reliefs of Donatello’, Apollo, 103 (1976), pp. 172–91; repr. in J. Pope-Hennessy: The Study and Criticism of Italian Sculpture (Princeton, 1980), pp. 71–105
  • A. Radcliffe and C. Avery: ‘The Chellini Madonna by Donatello’, Burlington Magazine, 118 (1976), pp. 377–87
  • V. Herzner: ‘Regesti donatelliani’, Rivista dell’Istituto nazionale d’archeologia e storia dell’arte [prev. pubd as Riv. Reale Ist. Archeol. & Stor. A.], 2 (1979), pp. 169–228
  • C. Avery: ‘Donatello’s Madonnas Reconsidered’, Apollo, 124 (1986), pp. 174–82
  • C. Elam and others: ‘Donatello at Close Range’, Burlington Magazine, 129 (1987), special suppl., pp. 1–52
  • L. Dolcini: Donatello e il restauro della ‘Giuditta’ (Florence, 1988)
  • C. Avery: ‘Donatello’s Madonnas Revisted’, Donatello-Studien, Italienische Forschungen (Munich, 1989), pp. 219–34
  • S. B. McHam: ‘Donatello’s Tomb of Pope John XXIII’, Life and Death in Fifteenth-Century Florence, ed. R. Goffen and others (Durham, 1989), pp. 146–73, 232–42
  • A. Jolly: Madonnas by Donatello and his Circle (diss., Cambridge, U. Cambridge, 1992)
  • S. B. McHam: ‘Donatello’s High Altar in the Santo, Padua’, Verrocchio and Late Quattrocento Sculpture, ed. S. Bule and others (Florence, 1992), pp. 259–69
  • C. Sperling: ‘Donatello’s Bronze David and the Demands of Medici Politics’, Burlington Magazine, 134 (1992), pp. 218–24
  • C. Avery: ‘Donatello’s Marble Narrative Reliefs’, Atti della giornata di studio: Le vie del marmo: Aspetti della produzione e della diffusione dei manufatti marmorei tra Quattrocento e Cinquecento: Pietrasanta, 1992, pp. 7–16
  • A. Butterfield: ‘Documents for the Pulpits of San Lorenzo’, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz, 38/1 (1994), pp. 147–53
  • G. Gentilini: ‘Sedici cherubini’, Artista (1994), pp. 28–43
  • G. A. Johnson: In the Eye of the Beholder: Donatello’s Sculpture in the Life of Renaissance Italy (diss., Cambridge, MA, Harvard U., 1994)
  • S. L. Smith: ‘A Nude Judith from Padua and the Reception of Donatello’s Bronze David’, Comitatus, 25 (1994), pp. 59–80
  • C. Avery: ‘Donatello and the Medici’, The Early Medici and their Artists, ed. F. Ames-Lewis (London, 1995), pp. 71–106
  • W. S. A. Dale: ‘Donatello’s Chellini Madonna: “Speculum sine macula”’, Apollo, 141/397 (March 1995), pp. 3–9
  • G. A. Johnson: ‘Activating the Effigy: Donatello’s Pecci Tomb in Siena Cathedral, Italy’, Art Bulletin, 77/3 (Sept 1995), pp. 445–59
  • C. Dempsey: ‘Donatello’s Spiritelli’, Ars naturam adiuvans: Festschrift für Matthias Winner, ed. V. V. Flemming and S. Schutze (Mainz, 1996), pp. 50–61
  • C. Fulton: ‘Present at the Inception: Donatello and the Origins of Sixteenth-century Mannerism: The Influence of Donatello’s 1515 Pulpit Reliefs on Florentine Painters’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte [merger of Z. Bild. Kst with Repert. Kstwiss. & with Jb. Kstwiss.], 60/2 (1997), pp. 166–99
  • G. A. Johnson: ‘The Original Placement of Donatello’s Bronze Crucifix in the Santo in Padua’, Burlington Magazine, 139 (1997), pp. 860–62
  • C. Avery: ‘Donatello: Rough and Simple in Everything but his Sculpture’, Sculpture Review, 46/3 (1998), pp. 9–13
  • C. Avery: ‘A Fascinating Enigma: The Dudley Madonna, Desiderio or Donatello?’, Art Quarterly [prev. pubd as NACF Mag.] (1998), pp. 46–9
  • L. Cempellin: ‘Sulla committenza del monumento al Gattamelata’, Padova e il suo territorio, 13 (Aug 1998), pp. 22–4
  • G. Didi-Hubermann: ‘The Portrait, the Individual, and the Singular: Remarks on the Legacy of Aby Warburg’, Images of the Individual: Portraits in the Renaissance, ed. N. Mann and L. Syson (London, 1998), pp. 165–88
  • A. C. Gampp: ‘“Diletto e maraviglia, piacere e stupor”: Donatellos hl. Georg aus der Sicht des Francesco Bocchi oder: die Wiedergeburt der Ethos-Figur aus dem Geiste der Gegenreformation’, Diletto e marviglia: Ausdruck und Wirkung in der Kunst von der Renaissance bis zum Barock, ed. C. Gottler and others (Emsdetten, 1998), pp. 252–72
  • S. E. Weaver: ‘Donatello’s Figures in the Sky: Mechanics in the Service of Religion’, Source, 18 (Fall 1998), pp. 12–17
  • K. Barnes-Oliver: ‘Legendary Penance: Donatello’s Wooden Magdalen’, Athanor, 17 (1999), pp. 25–33
  • A. P. Darr and B. Preyer: ‘Donatello, Desiderio da Settignano and his Brothers and “Macigno” Sculpture for a Boni Palace in Florence’, Burlington Magazine, 141 (Dec 1999), pp. 720–31
  • J. W. Dixon: ‘Donatello and the Theology of Linear Perspective’, Religion and the Arts, 3 (1999), pp. 159–79
  • G. A. Johnson: ‘Approaching the Altar: Donatello’s Sculpture in the Santo’, Renaissance Quarterly [prev. pubd as Ren. News; later incorp. into Stud. Ren.], 52 (Fall 1999), pp. 626–66
  • A. Tönnesmann: ‘Donatello e Brunelleschi in polemica: Un conflitto artistic nella cerchia fiorentina di Leon Battista Alberti’, Leon Battista Alberti: Architettura e cultura (Florence, 1999), pp. 45–66
  • A. M. Giusti: Donatello restaurato: I marmi del pulpito di Prato (Pistoia, 2000)
  • E. M. Beck: ‘Revisiting Dufay’s Saint Anthony Mass and its Connection to Donatello’s Altar of Saint Anthony of Padua’, Music in Art, 26 (2001), pp. 5–19
  • R. J. Crum: ‘Severing the Neck of Pride: Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes and the Recollection of Albizzi Shame in Medicean Florence’, Artibus et historiae, 22 (2001), pp. 23–9
  • D. Lewis: ‘Rehabilitating a Fallen Athlete: Evidence for a Date of 1453/1454 in the Veneto for a Bust of a Platonic Youth by Donatello’, Small Bronzes in the Renaissance, ed. D. Pincus, Studies in the History of Art, 62 (New Haven, 2001), pp. 32–53
  • S. B. McHam: ‘Donatello’s Bronze David and Judith as Metaphors of Medici Rule in Florence’, Art Bulletin, 73 (March 2001), pp. 32–47
  • R. E. Stone: ‘A New Interpretation of the Casting of Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes’, Studies in the History of Art, 62 (2001), pp. 55–69
  • M. Bergstein: ‘Donatello’s Gattamelata and its Humanist Audience’, Renaissance Quarterly [prev. pubd as Ren. News; later incorp. into Stud. Ren.], 55 (Fall 2002), pp. 833–68
  • G. Lorenz: Donatellos Prophetenstatuen am Campanile des Florentiner Doms: Studien zur Ikonographie und Bedeutung der Propheten in Florenz (Weimar, 2002)
  • J. Poeschke: ‘Motus und Modestia in der Kunst: Kunsttheorie und tugenlehre der Florentiner Frührenaissance’, Tugenden und Affekte in der Philosophie, Literatu und Kunst der Renaissance, ed. J. Poeschke, T. Weigel and B. Kusch (Münster, 2002), pp. 173–93
  • A. W. B. Randolph: Engaging Symbols: Gender, Politics, and Public Art in Fifteenth-century Florence (New Haven, 2002)
  • F. Caglioti: ‘Donatello e il Fonte Battesimale di Siena: Per una rivalutazione dello “Spiritello danzante” nel Museo Nazionale di Firenze’, Prospettiva, 110–111 (2003), pp. 18–29
  • F. T. Camiz: ‘Biblical Music and Dance through Renaissance Eyes’, Art and Music in the Early Modern Period: Essays in Honor of Franca Trinchieri Camiz, ed. K. A. McIver (Aldershot, 2003), pp. 367–75
  • J. Poeschke: ‘Still a Problem of Attribution: The Tomb Slab of Pope Martin V in San Giovanni in Laterano’, Studies in the History of Art, 64 (2003), pp. 57–71
  • M. Scalini: ‘Original Settings of Nonreligious Bronzes in the Renaissance’, Large Bronzes in the Renaissance, ed. P. Motture, Studies in the History of Art, 64 (New Haven and London, 2003), pp. 31–55
  • J. Shearman: ‘Art or Politics in the Piazza?’, Benvenuto Cellini: Kunst und Kunsttheorie im 16. Jahrhundert, ed. A. Nova and A. Schreurs (Böhlau, Cologne and Vienna, 2003), pp. 19–36
  • J. Shearman: ‘Donatello, the Spectator, and the Shared Moment’, The Enduring Instant: Time and the Spectator in the Visual Arts, ed. A. Roesler-Friedenthal and J. Nathan (Berlin, 2003), pp. 13–69
  • M. G. Vaccari: ‘The Cavalcanti Annunciation’, Sculpture Journal, 9 (2003), pp. 19–37
  • A. W. B. Randolph: ‘Donatello’s David: Politik und der homosoziale Blick’, Männlichkeit im Blick: visuelle Inszenierungen in der Kunst seit der Frühen Neuzeit, ed. M. Fend and M. Koos (Cologne, 2004), pp. 35–51
  • G. Schroder: ‘“Ein jeder folge seiner Phantasie”: Zu den Funktionsweisen der Imagination bei der Betrachtung von Kunstwerken im 16. Jarhhundert am Beispiel der Statue des heiligen Georg von Donatello’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte [merger of Z. Bild. Kst with Repert. Kstwiss. & with Jb. Kstwiss.], 67 (2004), pp. 25–54
  • K. V. Shaw: ‘A Reconstructive Model for Donatello’s Santo Altar’, Sculpture Journal, 11 (2004), pp. 4–31
  • C. Damianaki: ‘Gesture, Expression and Theatre: Three Narrative Reliefs by Donatello’, Studi sul Rinascimento italiano: In memoria di Giovanni Aquilecchia, ed. A. Romano and P. Procaccioli (Manziana, 2005), pp. 83–126
  • B. Paolozzi Strozzi, ed.: Il ritorno d’Amore: L’Attis di Donatello restaurato (Florence, 2005)
  • M. Dunkelman: ‘Looking up into Clouds: Donatello’s “Shaw Madonna”’, Source, 25 (2006), pp. 3–9
  • C. Kryza-Gersch: ‘Donatellos Madonna in Wien: Überlegungen zum Schöpfer des Marmorrahmens und zu einer möglichen Medici-Provenienz’, Jahrbuch des Kunsthistorisches Museums Wien, 8–9 (2006–7), pp. 178–91
  • J. I. Miller and L. Taylor-Mitchell: ‘Donatello’s “S. Rossore”, the Battle of San Romano and the Church of Ognissanti’, Burlington Magazine, 148/1243 (2006), pp. 685–8
  • P. Motture: ‘Donatello a Padova: Pratica di bottega e scambio artistico’, Mantegna e Padova, 1445–60, ed. D. Banzato and others (Milan, 2006), pp. 109–19
  • P. Rubin: ‘Signposts of Invention: Artists’ Signatures in Italian Renaissance Art’, Art History, 29 (Sept 2006), pp. 563–99
  • R. Stefaniak: ‘Isis Rising: The Ancient Theology of Donatello’s Virgin in the Santo’, Artibus et historiae, 27 (Summer 2006), pp. 89–110, 262
  • D. Varotto: ‘II De sculptura di Pomponio Gaurico: Una testimonianza sulla fortuna critica dell’arte di Donatello a Padova’, Storia dell’arte, pp. 113–14 (Aug 2006), pp. 77–102
  • C. E. Gilbert: ‘The Original Assembly of Donatello’s Padua Altar’, Artibus et historiae, 28 (2007), pp. 11–22
  • I. Walter: ‘Freiheit für Florenz: Donatellos Judith und ein Grabmal in Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rom’, Bild/Geschichte: Festschrift für Horst Bredekamp, ed. P. Hellas and others (Berlin, 2007), pp. 375–82
  • M. Bormand: Donatello: La Vierge et l’Enfant: Deux reliefs en terre cuit (Paris, 2008)
  • M. Krüger: ‘Wie man Fürsten empfing: Donatellos “Judith” und Michelangelos “David” im Staatszeremoniell der Florentiner Republik’, Zeitschrift für Kunst, 71/4 (2008), pp. 481–96
  • D. F. Zervas: ‘Donatello’s “Nunziata del Sasso”: The Cavalcanti Chapel at Santa Croce and its Patrons’, Burlington Magazine, 150 (2008), pp. 152–65
  • A. Terry: ‘Donatello’s Decapitations and the Rhetoric of Beheading in Medicean Florence’, Renaissance Studies, 23/5 (2009), pp. 609–38
  • R. Williams: ‘“Virtus perficitur”: On the Meaning of Donatello’s Bronze “David”’, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz, 53/2–3 (2009), pp. 217–28
  • A. R. Bloch: ‘Donatello’s “Chellini Madonna”, Light, and Vision’, Renaissance Theories of Vision, ed. J. Shannon Hendrix and C. H. Carman (Farnham, 2010), pp. 63–87
  • S. Stallini: ‘Judith protagoniste sur la scène florentine du Quattrocento: Donatello, Lucrezia Tornabuoni et l’auteur anonyme de la Devota Rapresentatione di Iudith Hebrea’, Mélanges de l’Ecole française de Rome: Moyen âge, temps modernes, 122 (2010), pp.189–209
  • A. Rosenauer: ‘Der sogenannte “Niccolò da Uzzano”: Donatello oder doch Desiderio?’, Desiderio da Settignano, ed. J. Connors and others (Venice, 2011), pp. 21–30
  • A. de Koomen: ‘Predella and Prontezza: On the Expression of Donatello’s Saint George’, Studies in the History of Art, 76 (2012), pp. 257–78
  • P. Weller: ‘A Reassessment in Historiography and Gender: Donatello’s Bronze David in the Twenty-First Century’, Artibus et historiae, 65 (2012), pp. 43–77
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