Early Renaissance Italian sculptor



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Early Renaissance Italian sculptor
Average: 5 (1 vote)

Date of Birth


Place of Birth

Florence, Italy

Date of Death

December 13, 1466

Place of Death

Florence, Italy

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cschuster's picture

Sr. Contributor

Donatello would be the greatest sculptor of all time...if not for Michelangelo.

At least that's the kind of thing he'd get Kanye'd with at an awards ceremony. Many of his greatest works can never leave Italy, so make sure to put him on the itinerary of your Italian holiday. Some scholarship labels Big Don's sexuality as gay, but it's largely based on contemporary rumors and the fact that he made some fine nude males.

D was so fond of his own masterpiece, the Zuccone, that he punctuated oaths by declaring, "By the Zuccone!" The Zuccone is a sculpture of an unidentified Old Testament prophet that merges together a unique understanding of what a prophet looks like. Part wild man, part Roman orator, all bald and ugly. Hence the nickname, as 'zuccone' means pumpkin head. Donatello would stare at the statue for hours at a time, reportedly uttering, "Speak, speak, plague take thee, speak !"  Spoiler alert: it didn't.

Donatello was a sculptor with a lot of firsts in his resume. First sculptor since antiquity to make the human body look separate from the drapery around it. First post-Gothic artist to give his work so many feels. Also produced the first bronze equestrian sculpture since antiquity. Not only that, but the equestrian commission was for a mercenary, not a king, as was traditional. Scandal. The work, Gattamelata (the mercenary's nickname which means 'The Honeyed Cat'), became the foundation for every equestrian statue forged in bronze thereafter. Supposedly, The Honeyed Cat's family tried to hurry the project along by adding another artist. Donatello then refused to continue working on Gattamelata and did a FINISH HIM move by smashing the statue's head. Donatello hammered at the head and went between bouts of tears and hysterical laughter while screaming, "Look what you're making me do!," until the other artist said he had a dog to pick up in Bologna and left.

It's not hard to see why he was known as a hot head. For instance, a merchant with a one-off commission tried lowballing Donatello over a bronze head the artist had crafted over the course of a year. Cosimo de Medici, the merchant's friend and Donatello's constant patron, tried to intercede, explaining that the offer was coming in too low for the artist's work. Donatello got so mad that he threw the bronze head into the street from the top of Cosimo's palace, shattering it. It's a testament to Donatello's artistic genius that he could be the biggest asshole in the city and still get all the work.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Donatello

Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (c. 1386 – 13 December 1466), better known as Donatello (English: /ˌdɒnəˈtɛl/Italian: [donaˈtɛllo]), was an Italian sculptor of the Renaissance. Born in Florence, he studied classical sculpture and used this to develop a complete Renaissance style in sculpture, whose periods in Rome, Padua and Siena introduced to other parts of Italy a long and productive career. He worked with stone, bronze, wood, clay, stucco and wax, and had several assistants, with four perhaps being a typical number. Though his best-known works were mostly statues in the round, he developed a new, very shallow, type of bas-relief for small works, and a good deal of his output was larger architectural reliefs.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Donatello.