Donatello (Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi) : biography
Donatello (full name Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi) was born in Florence in a family of a breaker. The exact date of his birth is unknown, approximately 1386-1387 year. When he was young he studied in a famous sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti’s workshop under the auspices of a banker Martelli. Lorenzo Ghiberti taught Donatello to use bronze casting techniques. Roughly at this time Donatello made acquaintance with a sculptor Brunelleschi who made a great influence on Donatello’s creative work and became his friend till the end of his life.
The early period of the sculptor’s creative work was connected with Florence houses’ decoration: he made a statue of Saint Mark, Saint George, John the Evangelist, statues of prophets for Florence cathedral and many other orders. In 20-s he started to make bronze sculptures – Saint Toulouse Louis, David’s statue. In his first works Donatello adhered to strictly realistic style, sometimes he specially tried to accentuate figure’s shortcomings.
In 1432 Donatello and Brunelleschi went to Rome where they studied Roman monuments, statues and sculptures and thereby they finished artistic education. After this trip Donatello abated realistic impulses in his work, and his statues became more classical character. The sculptor’s impressions of Rome are reflected in the works which he made for Roman Pontiff: tabernacle for a chapel, “Annunciation”, external pulpit for Prato cathedral and other works.
When Donatello returned from Rome he made embossing “Herod’s feast” which was made in an absolute classical style. In 1444 he was called to Padua for order of the Venice condottiere Gattamelata’s statue. Nowadays this statue is placed in front of Saint Antony’s church. It is one of the most colossal statues made in Italy. Donatello stayed in Padua for ten years working on Saint Antony’s church decoration: he made bas-reliefs, statues, sanctuaries. In 1457 he got seriously ill and worked less, soon hу returned to Florence.
The late period of Donatello’s work is connected with activity in Florence where the sculptor lived till death. Opinions about late Donatello’s works are different: some consider them to be less excellent in comparison with his previous works, other suppose they have spiritual expression power. In that time Donatello made Mary Magdalene’s statue, reliefs of Passion and Resurrection, “Judith and Oloferne”, Roman Pontiff John XXII monument. They are performed in a tragic theme and made very naturally. Several late works of Donatello were finished by his pupils after his death. Donatello died in 1466 and was buried in San Lorenzo church in Florence.
Donatello’s works’ great importance for the world art is obvious. He was the first who started to investigate systematically human plastique, body movements; he started to create sculptures with complicated actions’ portrayal. His works are filled with characters’ spiritual life and individuality. Donatello promoted the further development of sculpture and painting.