Donatello - Sculptor in Florence
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David statue Donatello
David, by Donatello

Donatello was an Italian sculptor, from Florence, in the later Middle Ages. He was born in Florence about 1386 AD, so when he grew up he was a friend of the architect Brunelleschi who built the big dome of Florence's new cathedral. Donatello helped Ghiberti make the doors. Like his friend Brunelleschi, Donatello was interested in ancient Roman art. He and Brunelleschi even went to Rome and dug up old Roman sculptures and measured old Roman buildings. Donatello tried to use the ideas of Roman art in his own art.

Madonna and Child Donatello
Madonna and Child

Earlier sculptors had made stiff, upright statues, or statues that looked tortured and twisted, as in Cimabue's paintings. Donatello brought a new flexibility and humanity to his statues. His David was the first free-standing nude statue made in Italy since the fall of Rome. Donatello also created a lot of low relief sculptures like this Madonna and Child. Here, too, he tried to give the people realistic bone structure and proportions. He tried to make them behave like real people. See how the baby Jesus is twisting around instead of sitting stiffly?

Donatello died in Florence in 1466 AD.

Learn by doing: try to draw your foot and make it look real
More about Michelangelo

Bibliography and further reading about medieval art

More about Michelangelo
More Medieval art
More about the Middle Ages home

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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
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  • Carr, K.E. . Study Guides, . Web. 24 April, 2017