A detail of Donatello's cantoria in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo of Florence.
A detail of Donatello's cantoria in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo of Florence. (Photo by Sailko)

This unassuming man was the greatest sculptor of the early Renaissance

DonatelloDonato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (c. 1386–1466) was the favored sculptor of Cosimo Il Vecchio de' Medici, and therefore the man commissioned to decorate some of Florence's most favored spots in the early 15th century.

Though Masaccio and Paolo Uccello get all the press for having "discovered" single-point perspective in painting, Donatello had actually quietly already perfected this technique and used it to scratch background scenes into his patented schiacciato low relief scenes to give them the illusion of greater depth.

Donatello was as kind-hearted as he was talented, famous for keeping a basket full of petty cash suspended from the rafters in his studio, just in case any of his assistants needed some walking-around money.

In his will, Cosimo Il Vecchio provided for the aged sculptor—who, by then, was living in the Medici household. Cosimo also directed his son Piero that the artist should never want for commissions until the day he died.

When Donatello did pass away, he was accorded the singular honor of being buried in the Medici family tombs, right next to his friend and patron Cosimo.

Tips & links

Donatello tours
Works by Donatello in Florence
  • Bargello Museum (loads of great works, including two famous Davids, a St. George, the Atys-Amorino cupid, the Marzocco heraldic lion, and a terracotta bust of Niccolò da Uzzano)
  • San Lorenzo (two panel-covered pulpits; also, Donatello's own grave)
  • Museo dell'Opera del Duomo (several statues, most notable the Mary Magdalene and Lo Zuccone—"Pumpkinhead"—plus a lovely cantoria)
  • Baptistery (tomb of antipope John XXIII)
  • Santa Croce (in the museum annex is a bronze St. Louis of Toulouse)
How long does Florence take?

Planning your day: Florence would well be worth a week, but you can still fit a lot into just a day or three.

To help you get the most out of your limited time in the Cradle of the Renaissance, here are some perfect itineraries, whether you have one, two, or three days to spend in Florence.

» Florence itineraries

Florence tours

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