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Donatello (Donato di NiccolĂ˛ di Betto Bardi; c. 1386 â€“ December 13, 1466) was a famous early Renaissance Italian artist and sculptor from Florence. He became well recognized for his creation of the shallow relief style of sculpting, which made the sculpture seem much deeper than it actually was. Donatello was educated in the house of the Martelli family. He received his first training (according to the custom of the period) in a goldsmith's workshop. While doing studies and excavations with Filippo Brunelleschi in Rome (1404-1407), which gained them the reputation of treasure seekers, the two men made a living by working at the goldsmiths' shops.
In Florence, Donatello assisted Lorenzo Ghiberti with the statues of prophets for the north door of the Battistero di San Giovanni, 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 until 1588 occupied a niche of the old cathedral facade, and is now placed in a dark chapel of the Duomo. This work marks a decisive step forward from late-Gothic Mannerism in the search for naturalism and the rendering of human feelings. The face, the shoulders and the bust are still idealized, while the hands and the pannings over the legs are more realistic.
In 1411-1413 Donatello worked on a statue of St. Mark for the church of Orsanmichele. From 1415 and 1426 he executed five statues for the campanile of Florence's Duomo. These are the Beardless Prophet, Bearded Prophet (both from 1415), the Sacrifice of Isaac (1421), Habacuc (1423-1425) and Jeremy (1423-1426), which follow the classic model for orators, and are characterized by a strong portrait detail. In 1425-1427 Donatello collaborated with Michelozzo on the funerary monument of Antipope John XXIII for the Battistero. Surely by Donatello is the bronze figure of the lying dead, under a shell.
Around 1430 Cosimo de' Medici, the greatest art patron of his time, commissioned from him the bronze David (now in the Bargello) for the court of his Palazzo Medici, which is his most famous work. At the time of its creation, it was the first free-standing nude statue since ancient times.
When Cosimo was exiled from Florence, Donatello went to Rome, remaining until 1433. The two works which still 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 the stamp of classic influence.
Donatello's return to Florence almost coincides with Cosimo's. In May 1434, he signed a contract for the marble pulpit on the facade of Prato cathedral, the last work executed in collaboration with Michelozzo. In 1435 he executed the Annunciation for the Cavalcanti altar in Santa Croce, inspired to 14th century iconography. In 1437-1443 he worked to the Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo in Florence, with two doors and lunettes portraying saints, as well as eight stucco tondoes. From 1438 is the wooden statue of St. John the Evangelist for Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice.
In 1443 Donatello was called to Padua by the heirs of the famous condottiero Erasmo da Narni, who had died that year. Completed in 1450 and placed in the square facing the Basilica of St. Anthony, his statue of Erasmo (better known as Gattamelata) is the first example of such an equestrian monument since ancient times (other similar statues from the 14th century were not in bronze and were placed over tombs); this work became the prototype for equestrian monuments executed in Italy and Europe in the following centuries.
Donatello returned to Florence in 1453. Until 1456 he worked at a wooden Mary Magdalene now the in the Duomo's museum, a piece of espressionistic rendering, characterized by meagerness of the body, the face marked by fatigue and pain. From 1455-1460 dates the group with Judith and Holofernes, begun for the Duomo di Siena but later acquired by the Medici.
For his last commission in Florence Donatello produced the bronze pulpits for San Lorenzo, with help from Bartolomeo Bellano and Bertoldo di Giovanni (Donatello provided the gobal design, and executed personally the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence and the Deposition from the Cross, and the relief with Christ next to Pilatus and Christus next to Caifa, with Bellano).
He died in Florence in 1466, and was buried in the Basilica of San Lorenzo, next to Cosimo the Elder.
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