Print Friendly, PDF & Email
David, by Donatello

David, from the story of David and Goliath

Who was Donatello?

Donatello was an Italian sculptor, from Florence, in the later Middle Ages. He was born in Florence about 1386 AD. His family were involved with buying and selling wool, and were probably pretty well off. He was homeschooled with some other kids, and then went to work for a goldsmith, learning how to work gold.

Florence and the Medici
Wool and clothing
The medieval economy
All our medieval Europe articles

Donatello made friends with other artists

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.

The Duomo at Florence

Donatello and Roman art

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. The friends tried to use the ideas of Roman art in their own art.

More about Roman art
And Roman architecture

Madonna and Child

Madonna and Child

What’s new about Donatello’s art?

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.

More about Cimabue

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?

What happened to him in the end?

Donatello lived his whole life in Florence. He died in Florence in 1466 AD, when he was eighty years old.

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

Bibliography and further reading about medieval art

Michelangelo’s sculpture
More Medieval art
More about the Middle Ages home