Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Donatello Research Paper

Research Paper on Donatello

Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi, or Donatello, what his family and friends often called him, was an Italian Renaissance Sculptor whose influence was greatly felt in Florence, but reached as far as Venice. He is considered to be one of the finest sculptors of all time and the originator or modern sculpture. Donatello, born in 1386, was the son of a Florentine wool worker. His father was interested in politics and known for his temper after he killed a political opponent in 1382. Donatello inherited his temper. The beginning of his career and training is not definite, but it is speculated that he was trained as a metal worker. He traveled to Rome when he was young and studied ancient sculpture. When he came back, he worked as an apprentice for Lorenzo Ghiberti.


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When Donatello was 17, he helped Ghiberti to construct and sculpt the famous bronze doors of the baptistery in San Giovanni, Florence. After working for Ghiberti, Donatello was commissioned to create sculptures of his own. He became well known for his style and realistic portrayals. Some of his most important works include, David, Mary Magdalene, St. George, and Gattamelata. He became a pioneer in the field of sculpture inventing or reinventing many different perspectives and styles. Gattamelata was the first equestrian sculpture of the renaissance and was known for being especially well proportioned.

David was the first bronze freestanding sculpture ever, which provided stepping-stones for other artists to use many different materials. He also rediscovered the principle of weight-shift. During medieval times, artists created humans as if they were stiff rigid creatures, but Donatello drew on the idea that humans move in fluid motions and that weight is shifted from one leg to another in order to support the body. His successors mastered the idea of a moving human body and applied it to their paintings and sculptures thereafter. Not only did the bodies seem more fluid in movement, but its drapery as well.

This creates the sense that the figure did exist as a human covered by clothing as opposed to a stone structure with drapery permanently joined with it. Donatello also invented the idea of schiacciato or shallow relief where the image seems very deep while it actually is on a very shallow plane. He improved the art of perspective and depth. Donatello was very well known for being very realistic and raw with his art. He had the ability to be sympathetic yet honest at the same time in his work. He didn't embellish the beauty of his subjects.

For example, he was commissioned to depict 4 holy men and he shows them how they ought to be shown, enlightened religious zealots but poor. He didn't make them look like kings because he was honest. In his portrayal of Mary Magdalene, he shows an old and humble woman; dirty and clothed in her own hair praying to God. His realism makes her disgusting yet still noble. But, he didn't create worn out, old images of everyone, because he was honest and sympathetic.

When he was commissioned to create a sculpture of a woman and her baby, for example, it was sweet and each character was full of love for the other, because that would be the honest portrayal of that relationship. Donatello was a great artist that set the tone for many artists that came after him, especially sculptors, but he lived in a time of great turmoil. All of Italy had very little stability as far as politics go. It was made up of many little city-states that weren't unified. Each city-state was run by an oligarchy. The groups running the city-states were chosen based on wealth, so the government was corrupt because bribes could change everything. The other European states such as Spain and France were growing powerful and beginning to take over the smaller city-states in Italy.
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