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Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi - Donatello

Bronze Sculptor 1386 - 1466

Donatello was born in 1386 and became the greatest Florentine sculptor of the 15th Century. He even became the most influential individual artist during this time as well; all before the great Michelangelo who came around in 1475. At a young age, he apprenticed with other well-known sculptors and quickly learned a gothic style of work. Throughout his career, he progressed to create a style of lifelike and highly emotional sculptures which is what got him the reputation he received.

Donatello is not his real name, but a nickname his family and friends gave him when he was born. His birth name was Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi and he was the son of Niccolo di Betto Bardi who was a member of the Florentine Wool Combers Guild. His father worked as a craftsman and this was the beginning of Donatello’s career as a sculptor. Being brought up amongst a family of bankers and art patrons ensured that Donatello was on the right path to crafting masterpieces, but first he had to start with training from a local goldsmith. He learned metallurgy and the fabrication of metals and other substances which furthered his skills in this trade. This further led to him becoming an apprentice with Florence metalsmith and sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti.

His first piece of work was done by the aid of Ghiberti from where they were commissioned to make bronze doors for the Baptistery of the Florence Cathedral. To do this they had to beat out their rival artist Filippo Brunelleschi and they accomplished what they set out to do. After this, there were accounts in which Donatello become friends with Brunelleschi in 1407 and travelled to Rome together in order to study the forms of classical art in that area. They were able to gain valuable knowledge of the art form and were able to learn a great deal about ornamentation.

Revisiting his hometown in 1408, Donatello quickly went back to the workshops and completed a life-sized marble sculpture which was called ‘David’. It followed his usual gothic style at the time and it had an expressionless face. This was a changing point for many sculptors as it was a great influence for them to be able to learn his style of work. This was his early stages of work, but soon developed higher detail and more emotional pieces in his later life before passing away in 1466. His unique style brought a lot of inspiration for sculptors at that time.

Many of the sculptures we show in our catalogue show Donatello’s style so please do feel free to browse through our collection.