Vasari's Lives of the Artists Chapter XI: Donatello.
The Life of Donatello, Florentine Sculptor
[1386 - 1466]
Donato, who was called Donatello by his relatives and thus signed some of his works this way, was born in Florence in the year 1303 . And devoting himself to the art of design, he became not only an unusually fine sculptor and a marvellous statue-maker, but also grew experienced in stucco, quite skilled in perspective, and highly esteemed in architecture. His works possessed so much grace and excellence and such a fine sense of design that they were considered to be more like the distinguished works of the ancient Greeks and Romans than those of any other artist who has ever existed, and he is therefore quite rightly recognised as the first artisan who properly used the device of scenes in bas-relief. He worked out these scenes with such careful thought, true facility, and expert skill that it was obvious he possessed a true understanding of them and executed them with extraordinary beauty. Thus, no other artisan surpassed him in this field, and even in our own times, there is no one who is his equal.
So begins Vasari's chapter on Donatello, which I've been looking forward to because Donatello's been mentioned numerous times in other artists' chapters. Vasari continues, as with previous artists and sculptors, to give some biographical detail: that Donatello was born in Florence, his father was Ruberto Martelli, and his first work to gain recognition was his Annunciation carved in stone and placed in the church of Santa Croce in Florence. Vasari describes more of Donatello's works and praises him very highly, writing,
In short, Donatello was such an artist and so admirable in his every deed that he can be said to have been one of the first among the moderns to render illustrious the art of sculpture and good design by his practice, good judgement, and knowledge. And he deserves even more praise, since in his times the remains of antiquities had not yet been unearthed and seen, except for columns, short pillars marking tombs, and triumphal arches. And it was primarily Donatello who awakened in Cosimo de' Medici the desire to bring such antiquities to Florence, which were and still are in the Medici palace, all of which were restored by Donatello.
Vasari concludes by noting Donatello's works were left to his pupil Bertoldo after his death, and he, Bertoldo, completed the bronze pulpits at San Lorenzo.
Here are some of Donatello's works:
|St. John the Baptist (1457).|
|The Feast of Herod (1427).|
|St. Mark (1411-13).|
|St. George (1417-18).|
|Equestrian statue of Gattamelata (1453).|
|David (c. 1440s).|