Donatello’s Most Famous Work
Who Is Donatello?
Before looking at famous works by Donatello, it is important to have a brief understanding of who Donatello was. The more we know, the better we can understand the many beautiful works by Donatello. Although known as Donatello, his full name was Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi. Alive from the year 1386 to 1466, Donatello lived 80 fruitful years with Donatello’s artwork carrying on his legacy to this day. Born in Florence, Italy, Donatello was a Renaissance sculptor.
You may already be familiar with some Donatello Renaissance artwork without even knowing it. Donatello was an artist possessing a wide variety of talents. Capable of working with various mediums such as wood, clay, stone, bronze, and more, Donatello created masterpieces loved by all. I wonder if Donatello knew that 555 years beyond his passing, people would still be admiring the fruits of his artistic labors? Donatello lived a very full and vivacious life full of art and surrounded by fellow creatives. Though it would be lovely to dive deeper into this realm, what we are here to talk about today are some Donatello works of art. Let’s begin with a Donatello works of art list.
Donatello Artwork List
Listed below are some of Donatello’s famous artwork titles along with the year and place of creation. Following these Renaissance art Donatello titles, I will share some more details about them to provide you with a little more insight and information.
- Saint John the Evangelist – Florence, 1410
- Saint George – Florence, 1415
- David – Rome, 1420
- Pazzi Madonna – Berlin, 1425
- Zuccone – Florence, 1425
- The Feast of Herod – Siena, 1427
- Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata – Padua, 1453
- Penitent Magdalene – Florence, 1455
- Judith and Holofernes – Florence, 1457
Now that we have covered some of Donatello’s most famous work titles we will be discussing today, let’s dig deeper into the story behind these pieces. These Donatello’s most famous artwork pieces share different stories that give us a glimpse into the past. Art shares secrets no history books dare explain. That’s one of the most beautiful things about art. The more we study it, the more we can comprehend the lives that were lived long before ours. It is a true gift to uncover the past through sculptures that have withstood the test of time.
Saint John the Evangelist
Saint John the Evangelist was created in Florence, Italy between the years of 1410 and 1411. Saint John the Evangelist was one of many of Donatello’s famous sculptures, this one, in particular, is one of his earlier works. This sculpture was made of marble and was originally placed inside the Duomo in Florence. Donatello gave direct instruction on how this sculpture should be placed on display for his viewers to receive the experience Donatello wanted. He created this marble sculpture with slight disproportionalities.
For example, very short legs accompanied by an extremely long torso. If the sculpture was on display well above the eye line of viewers, the sculpture would look normal to the human eye, though when seen at face level, the disproportionalities would be visible. For some history and insight on who Saint John was, he was one of the twelve apostles. An apostle was a leader of Christianity who was of high importance. This sculpture was made to honor Saint John, and I as well as many others, believe Donatello was successful in doing so.
Saint George was another marble sculpture that Donatello created earlier on in his career. In the year 1415, in Florence, Italy, Donatello was commissioned by the Florence guild to create this sculpture of Saint George. The purpose of the sculpture was that it could reside outside the Orsanmichele church. This sculpture depicts a man of great strength and courage.
The muscular physique of Saint George is still apparent beneath the layers of clothing he is masked in. This sculpture also depicts Saint George’s stance before attacking the Dragon. When looked at close enough, you can see the details in Saint George’s face which clearly express the various emotions he was feeling. Donatello once again was successful in creating this marble sculpture which is still talked about today.
David is one of a kind, being one of Donatello’s most famous works of art pieces. Before creating the David that was made in 1420, Donatello created another David sculpture in the year 1408 which predates both Saint John the Evangelist and Saint George. The first David sculpture was created using marble and is incomparable to the techniques Donatello would soon exemplify in his second sculpture entitled David. The second David, the one that we all know today, was made in 1420 in Rome.
Using bronze, Donatello was able to create the first bronze sculpture during the Renaissance period. This bronze sculpture of Donatello was a recreation of the moment David slew Goliath which is presented by having David’s footrest upon Goliath’s severed head which lays upon the ground. In this sculpture, David is wearing nothing but his hat and boots. By creating David, Donatello was known for his exquisite technique within the realm of realism. To this day, David is known as a Donatello artwork Renaissance realism piece.
Donatello’s Pazzi Madonna was created in the year 1425 and resides in Berlin at the Berlin Staatliche Museen. The Pazzi Madonna is made of marble and is a relief sculpture. It is an image of a virgin holding a Christ child. There is care that is visible in the details of the virgin and admiration in the details of the Christ Child. This marble relief piece is quite beautiful as it displays quite a gentle and passionate love. This particular Donatello artwork Renaissance piece was celebrated and continues to be celebrated for the impeccable realism techniques Donatello was able to carve into the marble. The detail in this work was unlike any of its time and still amazes those who see it today.
Donatello completed Zuccone between the years of 1423 and 1425. If these dates are correct that means Donatello was working on the Pazzi Madonna side by side to the Zuccone. Zuccone is a marble statue that was created to depict Habakkuk, a well known biblical prophet. Habakkuk is a prophet from the Hebrew Bible. It is said that there was little information shared about this prophet in particular. The lack of detail and information about this prophet provided Donatello with the freedom to explore more avenues whilst creating this statue.
From the expression on Zuccone’s face to the details in his long robes, Donatello once again created a realism piece during the Renaissance era. Rumor has it that Donatello once expressed that Zuccone was one of his favorite creations he has ever made. With 555 years passing since Donatello was with us, it’s hard to know if this was true or not. I, for one, am a fan of Zuccone myself.
The Feast of Herod
When talking about Donatello sculptures most famous pieces, it is important we include The Feast of Herod. The Feast of Herod was created by Donatello in Siena, Italy in the year 1427. This piece of artwork in particular was Donatello’s first-ever relief sculpture made of bronze. Initially, when you take a glimpse at this sculpture, you may see a group of people around a table enjoying a feast with one another. The closer you look, you will actually see ahead being presented to Herod on a platter.
The story behind this is that this was during the time of John the Baptist’s demise. The head being presented to Herod as he reacts in utter shock is that of John the Baptist. This bronze relief sculpture is only 60×60 centimeters, making it one of Donatello’s smaller pieces. Due to the smaller size, it is extremely impressive the amount of detail Donatello was able to carve into the bronze. Donatello’s use of detail to create dimension makes you feel like you are entering another world.
Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata
Moving on to the year 1453, Donatello created the Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata while he found himself working in Padua. There once was a military leader named Erasmo de Narni whose nickname was Gattamelata. Gattamelata was a powerful leader who demonstrated strength and courage. Donatello made this quite obvious in his creation. The Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata is cast in bronze, demonstrating Gattamelata upon his horse’s back. This statue still resides in its original place, allowing people to continue admiring the work of Donatello.
The Penitent Magdalene is neither marble nor bronze, but a sculpture made of wood. Penitent Magdalene is a sculpture of Mary Magdalene that was created in 1455 in Florence, Italy. Like many other pieces Donatello created in his time, Penitent Magdalene was well known and appreciated for the realistic details in which depicted a healthy young woman. Around the time of this Donatello artist artwork piece, Donatello would have been around 69 or 70 years old. It is truly amazing the detail and time that he was still able to pour into all of his work even as he aged. There is not an abundance of information that was documented about this sculpture in particular. All we know is that it was appreciated in 1455 and continues to be appreciated today. Donatello’s pieces are truly timeless.
Judith and Holofernes
The last Donatello piece we are going to talk about today is Judith and Holofernes. Judith and Holofernes were created upon Donatello’s arrival home to Florence after working and spending ample time in Padua. This sculpture is made from bronze and once again, like all of his other pieces, is truly amazing. Judith and Holofernes is a freestanding bronze statue in which recreates Judith slaying Holofernes.
Having Judith stand proudly above the body of Holofernes depicts a powerful woman who has just accomplished something great. It is said that this sculpture was made to represent power versus weakness. Judith represents power and Holofernes, weakness. After a long and fruitful career, Judith and Holofernes were one of the last works of art Donatello ever created. Donatello was a true artist and his legacy continues to live on. There is so much to learn from the art of Donatello.
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