Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Donatello's trio


1386-1466

Donatello is considered to be one of the greatest sculptors of all time. His techniques are still used by sculptors today.
He was a great Italian sculptor, who was born in Florence, Italy, in 1386, and died at the age of 80 in 1466. He did not marry and had no children. He started practicing at the age of 20 and worked in Lorenzo Ghiberti's shop. Later in his life he studied Roman ruins and became a humanist. Donatello also had a shop in Florence where he created many of his masterpieces.
The city of Florence paid for his sculpture of David. David is the first free standing sculpture in the Christian era. Patrons found him very hard to deal with and to work with. He was not a cultured intellect like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. Donatello was essentially a realist. His statues display, for the first time since antiquity, the human body as a functional organism, and the human personality radiated a confidential individuality.
Many of Donatello's masterpieces are located in Florence. Some of these masterpieces include: St. Peter, St. Mark, Zuccone, St. George and the Dragon, St. John the Evangelist, Magdalen, and Angel with Tambourine. Other pieces considered to be some of his finest work are: Herod's Feast, St. Louis of Toulouse, St. Peter, St. Anthony, an equestrian statue called Gattamelata, and Jeremiah. His most classical work is His 'Singing Gallery' for the Florence cathedral is his most popular creation and his statue of the Ventian warrior Gattamelata on horseback is considered his best work.
A lot of his sculptures were Renaissance breakthroughs. David, for one, was the first nude statue of the Renaissance, and the equestrian statue, Gattamelata, was considered to be one of the best proportioned sculptures ever. In Donatello's Gothic style he used expressive ugliness to give the statue a life of its own. He used a powerful realism that gives his statues a distinct look.
Donatello had an immense impact on the art and the artists of the Renaissance. He invented the shallow relief technique. In the shallow relief technique the sculpture seems deep but is actually done on a very shallow plane.
Donatello characterized his figures as individuals. He also made the first bronze sculpture. These were the stepping stones for sculptors to use other materials.

Abraham and Isaac
The need to enclose the two figures in a complex movement within the narrow space of the niche was the occasion for Donatello to express the absolute and natural freedom and plastic language of his compositions. This group, carved in 1421 for the Bell Tower together with Nanni di Bartolo known as The Red, combined in its extraordinary immediacy of a dynamic nucleus fine and divergent plastic solutions, an analytic and descriptive result of optical effects in the distance. Emerging from the vortex of Abraham’s drapes is the nude figure of Isaac exhibiting Brunelleschi- style figures for the Baptistery, a contraposition of a bright background behind a clear shape in the forefront. It was a genial solution to reach a rapid effect of profundity. But of note is also the contrast between the realism of the father’s hands and the classical, abstract purity of the young man’s profile, not necessarily attributable to Bartolo but used by Donatello to underline the cultural insertion.
David
More than twenty years after the “David” created for S. Maria del Fiore, probably following a journey to Rome in 1432, Donatello re-engaged the theme of the bronze model for the Medici family. The different cultural moment and the private destination of the work explain the completely different interpretation both in iconography and style that the artist used in the biblical subject, pushed this time by literature of a classical example in a humanistic, symbolic key using refined and esoteric illusions. Even now the cultural and formal apparatus of the Florentine environment is apparent in the overwhelming reality of a physical evidence and sensuality of the adolescent body.
Saint George
In the full-length view, one gets a complete idea of the new inner values that Donatello imposed on the style and iconography of his time. Classicism becomes an ethical and rational harmony; formal Gothic rhythm is transformed into balanced natural movement, into what Vasari described as "marvelous sense of movement within the stone." The statue was commissioned by the Armorers' Guild; this fact would have led a classical Gothic sculptor to a display of fanciful and affected virtuosity, but it suggested to Donatello's genius the invention of the large, simple, emblematic shield, a basic structural element for the dynamic synthesis of the figure in space.