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Donatello Essay, Research Paper

Donatello was quoted saying ?I was the first–a revolutionary. I was creating a new kind of sculpture before the others were even born? (www.reniassancesculpture.com). Donatello was wise beyond his years. Little did he know that he was so right. He had many of breakthroughs in marble, bronze, and wood sculpture, including the first male nude since the Romans and the very first equestrian (horse and rider) statue. Donatello can be considered a genius. He rediscovered the classical past and at the same time he took sculpting to a whole new level.

Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi (Donatello) was born in Florence, Italy, in 1436. He came from a very humble background. His father was a wool carder. Donatello grew up like any normal boy in that period, getting into occasional trouble. Then in 1404 he worked in the workshop of a renown goldsmith and sculptor named Ghiberti. While working with Ghiberti, he was hired to do small statues of prophets for the Porta della Mandorla. In about 1407 Donatello left Ghiberti and started working on his own. A year later he created his first major work, a marble David. From 1408 until about 1422 he did miscellaneous statues for churches, including the great statues of St. George and St. Mark. Over the next eight to ten years, he started working with his long time friend Michelozzo on many different projects including the tomb of Pope John Paul XXIII, the tomb of Cardinal Brancacci in Naples, and the exterior pulpit of the Prato Cathedral. Between 1432 and 1438 he finished the exterior pulpit that he started at the Prato Cathedral. At the same time he was doing other projects as well. For example, he worked on the decoration of the Old Sacristy at San Lorenzo and the Cantoria for the Duomo in Florence. Later on he was hired to create the bronze doors for the two Cathedral sacristies, but they were never made. From 1444 to 1453 he lived in Padua. He made this move because of the commission from the statue Gattamelata. He completed the statue a few years later and it was unveiled to the public three years later. He returned to Florence after the completion of Gattamelata. There he did many works until his death. Two important works were Mary Magdalane and the Judith and Holoferenes. In 1457 he left for Siena where he made a statue of St. John the Baptist for the cathedral. Soon after he was back in Florence where he would stay. On his return he was hired to do his last statues. They were two bronze pulpits for San Lorenzo. He started them but died before they were completed (Two of his students completed them). He died on December 13, 1466.

Donatello had many influences in his life but the prominent ones are the study of Leon Battista Alberti?s theories and Lorenzo Ghiberti?s teachings to him as a young man. Alberti?s theories were concerning ideal proportions for the portrayal of the human figure. Donatello followed these rules strictly to create one of his most famous works, the marble David. Someone once said ?The proportions of this David (marble) coincide almost exactly with Alberti?s rules…? (Poeschke, 1349).

His other great influence in his life was the teachings of Lorenzo Ghiberti. This great sculptor showed Donatello ?the ropes.? He taught Donatello everything he knew. ?Donatello had learned the technique of bronze sculpture as a youth by working under Ghiberti…? (Poeschke, 385). He taught Donatello so much that Donatello and Ghiberti became great rivals in the sculpting industry. They shared the some of the same techniques. Particularly in the creation of the bronze panelsm, The Feast of Herod (Donatello) and The Story of Jacob and Esau (Ghiberti), are very similar. In both of the panels, it is as though the viewer is looking through a window into a room and viewing the scene. Both Donatello and Ghiberti share the same technique that made them extremely competent and successful relief sculptors.

Donatello is classified as a Renaissance sculptor. According to Smith and Masters in their art line of art history, a Renaissance sculptor is classified as using the following characteristics in their art. The artist’s work was paid for by guilds and private patrons to make sure that the artists were remembered for their work. His figures were usually life-sized, religious figures, and they were used to decorate churches or other public places. But, the private patrons often wanted mythological figures as well as religious ones. In addition, Renaissance sculptors also created statues of famous people of their time. For example the Gattamelata was a famous genreal that Donatello did a sculpture of (the first horse and rider statue). The Renaissance sculptors used bronze, marble, terracotta, and wood to create their incredible works of art. Donatello blended all of these techniques of sculpture to create his masterpieces.

Donatello had the most influence on the renaissance period. Many scholars would agree that Donatello was the most influncial people in sculpting history. Donatello is generally considered one of the greatest sculptors of all time and the founder of modern sculpture. His sculpture influenced that of Florence and northern Italy in the 15th century. It was also a major stimulus on the development of realism in Italian painting…(Dickey 292)He pioneered many differnet things in the area of sculpting. These things are what makes him so famous.

First and formost he was one of the first ot use the weight shifting technique. As in his bronze David. This is a perfect example of the weight shifting technique in his sculpture. If you look at him his hips are slanted slightly down. This allows Donatello to get hte right effect in his sculpture to let him put all his weight on one leg. One of his legs are straight and the other is bent and it looks like he is not using that one to stand up. Giving you the effect that he is just standing there lazily. His bronze David is weight shifting technique to a tee. Along with a couple of other things this weight shifting technique gives his statues character. Character that makes his stautes unlike any before and after his.

Another thing that makes his sculpture so special is the facial expressions on all the faces. On every face there is a different expression. On some of his faces there is just a plain face as in his horse and rider sculpture of Gattamelata. Gattamelata just has a regular expressionless face. But on some of his later works in particular like the Mary Magdalane the facial expressions are very complex. He uses a wide range of facial expressions from very calm to extremely disturbed.

He also uses correct proportions in his sculpture. The head, arms, torso, and the legs are all in proportion with each other. If you like at his sculpture of St. George this statue is all in almost perfect proportion. His head is in proportino to his body. His bronze David is the same way. Everything just fits together like a ?perfect human being.? This was the first time that a sculpture had been done in proportion since the Greek times. I personally like the sculpture that looks the most like real life. The more perfect to proportional it is the more I like it.

The thing that I see in all of his sculpture is his incredible detail. It?s like his sculpture could get off its pedestal and walk away. That?s how real the sculptures look. From the way the robes flow on the biblical figures as in his statue of St. Mark. To his extremely intricate hair and body work on the Mary Magdalane. In his sculpture of St. George you can see how intricate his armor and his shield are. He even goes as far as to decorate the shield. You can see the veins in the hands of some, as in the sculpture of St. Mark. The hair looks so real, it is so intricate and beautiful, as in his last David. Donatello is set apart from every sculptor in history. He had many exciting breakthroughs weight shifting, facial expression, correct proportins, and incredible detail. He did so much beautiful work that he is considered way ahead of his time in the area of sculpting.

Donatello started his first David in 1408 and completed it in 1409. It is a statue of a young boy in his late teen years with a big severed head at his feet, the head of Goliath, whom he defeated in battle. David stands there looking out at the world like I am the man! This sculpture was done after Donatello?s city-state of Florence won a similar David and Goliath battle against Milan. The so called buly in Italy at that time. This sculpture symbollically shows the victory of Florence and at the same time shows Donatello?s unmatched skill in sculpture.

Donatello?s sculpture of David is about six feet tall and is made out of marble. It depitics a young man in leather armor with a flowing cape. His expression is calm, cool, and collected like statues of the calssical Greek period. He looks out with an expressionless face that gives you the message, ?do not mess with me!? He has very detailed leather armor on that gives you the impression that he just walked in from the battle field on to this podium. He has a long flowing cape about his neck and shoulders that gives him a more masculine quality. He is also wearing some kind of wreath about his head that gives you the impression that he was honored for killing this great beast of a man in Goliath. The head of Goliath is a big head with a full long flowing beard and his closed eyes say, ?I have been defeated.?

Donatello?s David fits the categorizing of the Renaissance sculpture to a tee. It includes everything and leaves nothing undone. First off he uses the weight shifting technique. The young man?s hips are slightly angled on one side and his hand is on the high side of the hips and his other hand is just hanging there. It looks so real. The way his body is flowing together and his natural posture, make him look like a real person. The facial expression on this particular sculpture is dynamite! He has no facial expression, but you still get the feeling like he does not want to be messed with. It?s so awesome the way Donatello can make a face have no expression yet it still communicates to you a very strong message. The sculpture is in correct proportion. His arms and legs are the right size for his torso. The head looks proportional to his body and his feet don?t look too big for his legs. The last thing that I categorized a renaissance sculptor with is incredible detail in the whole work. His David is that to a tee. Everything about this young man has incredible detail, from his intricate hair to his leather armor to the cape that hangs around his neck, it is all in great detail. Like it is a mold of a person, A person ready to get off that stand and walk away. This is a typical Donatello sculpture: lots of detail, a religious figure, very life-like, and way ahead of his time.

To me personally I think what?s so unique about this sculpture is it?s mystery. What I mean by this is that what was the fight like between these two giants? Was it really that bad where the loser got his head chopped off by the victor or did it just happen like that? Now that this boy killed this giant is he a hero? You tell me. I personally love this work it has everything I like in sculpture. It has great detail, mystery, calmness, and realism.Works Cited

Dickey, Dickey H. ?Donatello.? Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. Volume 8. New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1994.

Poeschke, Joachim. ?Donatello.? Donatello and His World. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. 1993.

No author.?Donatello.? located at www.reniassancesculpture.com.

Works ConsultedMullers, Janet Fuller and Smith, Joyce McKeon. ?The Renaissance.?Art History: A Study Guide. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 1987.Rothenstein, Sir John.?Donatello.? Encyclopedia of Art. Volume 7. London: Greystone Press, 1968.

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