Portrait of Donatello by an unknown 16C artist, in the Louvre Museum, Paris, Donatello, Italy, Italy (Photo by sailko)
Portrait of Donatello by an unknown 16C artist, in the Louvre Museum, Paris

This unassuming man was the greatest sculptor of the early Renaissance

Donato 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 technique of warping low relief surfaces and etching backgrounds in perspective to create a sense of deep space.

His bronze and marble figures are some of the most expressive and psychologically probing of the Renaissance. Among his many innovations, this unassuming artist cast both the first freestanding nude (the Bargello’s David) and the first equestrian statue (in Bologna) since antiquity.

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.

Selected works by Donatello in Italy


San Lussorio by Donatello in the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, Pisa

Donatello's bronze David (c. 1440) in the The Bargello, Florence

"Saint George" (1415–17) by Donatello in the The Bargello, Florence

"Saint George Slaying the Dragon" (1415–17), a masterful schiacciato relief by Donatello in the The Bargello, Florence

"David" (1408–09) in marble by Donatello in the The Bargello, Florence

Donatellos in the Upper Hall in the The Bargello, Florence

Donatello's tomb for Giovanni Crivelli in the Santa Maria in Aracoeli, Rome

"Prosdocimus" (c. 1450) attributed to Donatello in the Fondazione Salvatore Romano—Cenacolo di Santo Spirito, Florence

Cantoria, or Choir Loft, (1433) by Donatello in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

"Mary Magdalene" (1453–55) by Donatello in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

"The Prophet HabakuK," better known as "Lo Zucchone" or "Pumpkinhead" (1423–35) by Donatello in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

"St. John the Evangelist" (1410–11) by Donatello in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

"Jeremiah" (1427–35) by Donatello in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

"Beardless Prophet" (1416-18) by Donatello in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

"The Thoughtful Prophet" (1418–20) by Donatello in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

"Sacrifice of Issac" (1421) by Donatello in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence

"Judith Decapitating Holofernes" (1453–57) by Donatello in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

"Presentation to Pontius Pilate" (1460s) on the Pulpito della Passione by Donatello in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

"Cantoria di S. Lorenzo" (1430-50) by Donatello and assistants in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

Pulpito della Passione, or Pulpit of The Passion, (1460s) by Donatello in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

"The Crucifixion" (1460s) on the Pulpito della Passione by Donatello in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

"The Deposition" (1460s) on the Pulpito della Passione by Donatello in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

"Vision in the Garden" (1460s) on the Pulpito della Passione by Donatello in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

"Descent into Limbo" (1460s) on the Pulpito della Resurrezione by Donatello and his assistants in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

"The Ascension" (1460s) on the Pulpito della Resurrezione by Donatello and his assistants in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

"Porta dei Martiri" (1434–43) by Donatello in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

"Sts. Cosimo and Damian: on the "Porta dei Martiri" (1434–43) by Donatello in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

"Porta dei Apostoli" (1434–43) by Donatello in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

The Sagrestia Vecchia, or Old Sacristy, (1420–28) designed by Filippo Brunelleschi and decorated largely by Donatello (1428–43) in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

"Sts. Stefano and Lorenzo" (1440–43) by Donatello in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

"Stories of St. John the Evangelist: Ascension" (1434-43) by Donatello in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

"Resurrection of Drusiana" (1428–35) by Donatello in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

The back of the altar (1433) of Sagrestia Vecchia by Donatello in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

"The Madonna col Bambino" on the back of the altar (1433) of Sagrestia Vecchia by Donatello in the Basilica di San Lorenzo, Florence

"St. Peter" (1408-13) by Filippo Brunelleschi and Donatello in the Orsanmichele Museum in the Orsanmichele, Florence

"San Marco" (1411-13) by Donatello in the Orsanmichele Museum in the Orsanmichele, Florence

"St. John the Baptist" (1438) by Donatello in the Cappella di San Giovanni Battista in the Basilica di Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

The Marzocco (replica) by Donatello in the Arringheria, Florence

Bronze cast of the statue of "Judith and Holofernes" by Donatello, Piazza della Signoria, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in the Arringheria, Florence

Where to find works by Donatello in Italy

★★☆
The Salone dei Cinquecento, with Vasari frescoes and statues by Michelangelo, Giambologna, and others (Photo by Juan Carlos Peaguda)
Palazzo Vecchio
Florence: Centro Storico

Florence's Palazzo Vecchio is a Gothic town hall decorated by Renaissance masters

 
★★☆
The statue-filled upper hall (Photo Public Domain)
The Bargello
Florence: Centro Storico

A flock of Donatellos and other great works in this sculpture gallery annex of the Uffizi

 
★★★
The Baldacchino over the altar of St. Peter's (Photo by Jorge Royan)
Free
St. Peter's
Rome: Vatican

St. Peter's Basilica (Basilica di San Pietro) in Rome: Motherchurch of Christendom

 
★★☆
"The Madonna Enthroned with Saint Andrew, Saint Nicolas, Saint Paul, and Saint Peter" (1487) a polyptych by Bartolomeo Vivarini (Photo Public Domain)
I Frari
Venice: San Polo

The Titians, Bellini, and Donatello in the church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

 
★★☆
Recreation of Arnfolo di Cambio's original facade for Santa Maria del Fiore (Photo by Sailko)
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo
Florence: Centro Storico

Florence's Duomo Museum is filled with works by Michelangelo, Donatello, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, and other Titans of the early Renaissance

 
★★★
The Basilica of Santa Croce on Piazza Santa Croce (Photo by Augusto Mia Battaglia)
Santa Croce
Florence: Santa Croce

Santa Croce church is the Westminster Abbey of Florence: The tombs of Renaissance giants Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo, and Rossini (plus some great Giotto frescoes—and a renowned leather school)

 
★☆☆
"Presentation to Pontius Pilate" (1460s) on the Pulpito della Passione by Donatello (Photo Public Domain)
San Lorenzo
Florence: San Lorenzo / San Marco

The Medici family church, with Donatello sculptures and architecture by Brunelleschi and Michelangelo

 
★★★
Mosaic ceiling inside the Battistero di San Giovanni (Photo by Ricardo André Frantz)
The Baptistery
Florence: Centro Storico

Florence's Battistero di San Giovanni and Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise

 
★★☆
The room of painted crosses (Photo by Luca Aless)
Museo di San Matteo
Pisa: Along the Arno

A treasury of Gothic and early Renaissance paintings by the Arno

 
★★☆
Baptistry
Around Siena's Duomo

A riot of medieval frescoes and a catalog of greatest early Renaissance sculptors including Donatello's early use of perspective

 
★★☆
Museo dell’Opera
Around Siena's Duomo

The cathedral museum is filled with works by Donatello and Duccio and comes with a stunning panorama of Siena

 
★☆☆
 (Photo by Arnaud 25)
Free
Arringheria
Florence: Centro Storico

The statue-lined terrace in front of the Palazzo Vecchio tells Florence's story in sculpture

 
★☆☆
 (Photo by Mia Battaglia)
Free
Orsanmichele
Florence: Centro Storico

A Gothic granary-turned-church decorated by early Renaissance sculptures

 
☆☆☆
"Crucifixion and Last Supper" (1360–65) by Andrea Orcagna (Photo by Sailko)
Fondazione Salvatore Romano
Florence: Oltrarno

Orcagna's "Last Supper" fresco in the old refectory of Santo Spirito

 
☆☆☆
 (Photo by Ricardo André Frantz)
Free
Santa Maria in Aracoeli
Rome: Tiber Bend

The sad story of the Santo Bambino at the Capitoline church

 
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