Donatello's Early, Middle and Late Work

Published: 2021-09-12 13:15:10
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Born to a family in Florence in 1386, Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi became the greatest sculptor in the early Renaissance period. Better known as Donatello, his masterpieces portrayed great expressivity. At a tender age of seventeen he was an apprentice to a master aiding in the formation of bronze reliefs. As he aged he progressed in learning how to sculpt marble, sandstone, mosaic, wood, bronze and sometimes a mixture of the mediums. We will take a closer look at the similarities and differences between his early, mature and late works.
His first life-size piece was a marble statue in 1409, David. During his early days, there was a very strong Gothic style influence. In technique it was executed perfectly. However, it lacked any sense of individual style or emotion. The legs are positioned in a classic contrapposto, more natural than stone, and the twist of the torso and placement of the arm are suggestive of being smug about the giant's head between the feet even though the face held no expression. Full nudity was not acceptable at that time, so instead the figure was dressed in a casual robe.
In the 1430's Donatello's work started showing more of his own style that he had developed. He was commissioned to create a piece for the Cathedral. His Cantoria blended the Renaissance and Classism, keeping the content both realistic and beautiful. A majority of this marble carving are the putti, naked and pudgy children who appear to be dancing aimlessly. The putti give the illusion of movement, albeit in no particular direction, when they partially disappear behind the carved columns. The figures are still rough around the edges, lacking the pristine detail Donatello was becoming known for, under the presumption that he was on a time crunch to complete the piece.

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