Historical and unique exhibition “Donatello, Renaissance”, installed in Florence in the Palazzo Strozzi i Bargello, introduces us to the great Florentine sculptor as the architect of the artistic revolution that would reflect on such geniuses of the sixteenth century as Michelangelo and Raphael, through vivid works, the courage to experiment with new methods and perspectives.
Noble, elegant and delicate features, thanks to which one of the most famous sculptors of all time was affectionately called by his contemporaries. Donatello, characterized Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi, which decisively distinguished him from his restless father and hectic life. But even in refinement, his soul was permeated by an irresistible desire to overthrow the established orders of art, to create something deeply new and original. The talented artist (1386-1466) actually stands at the origins of the revolution of the very idea of sculpture, and the route of the Florentine exhibition (which we can admire until July 31) effectively demonstrates it to the visitor, testifying to what is presented, of course, as an epoch-making turning point of the Renaissance. Between the ages of eighteen and twenty, Donatello had already collaborated with Lorenzo Ghiberti in the construction of the two impressive bronze doors of the North Gate of the Baptistery of Florence, demonstrating that he also had a goldsmith’s training. And already at this early age, a fruitful dialogue with Ghiberti did not prevent him from revealing his unprecedented emotional temperament in his marble or wooden sculptures.
Sarah explosive friendship with Filippo Brunelleschi (nearly 10 years older than Donatello) to instill in him a passion for the classical world, the “organic and new naturalism” model. Even if, according to Vasari, crucifixion created by a young sculptor “with extraordinary difficulty” for the Basilica of Santa Croce, he was crushed with some severity by his more mature friend, who felt that he “put a peasant on a cross.” In the exhibition, this realistic work is adjacent to crucifixion Filippo Brunelleschi, created two years later for Santa Maria Novella, is certainly more harmonious and balanced than the expressive power of the body and face of the Donatellian figure. But the long cooperation of the two friends, despite frequent quarrels, will give significant results that go far beyond the task of the Crucifixions, also because Brunelleschi’s architectural inventions had a profound effect on the sculptor Donatello, offering absolutely innovative perspective solutions. Like almost all the sculptors who worked in the Tuscan cities at the beginning of the 15th century, Donatello also devoted himself to the most beloved and widespread genre in the noble houses of the Florentines – the great Madonnas a semi-figured terracotta polychrome that catches the eye of the visitor with its sweetness, which stems from an increasingly lively and unprincipled naturalism compared to the neo-Gothic grace of the context from which the Master emerged.
When we come to Madonna and Child Victoria and Albert Museum in London or Detroit, the intense and spontaneous mutual attachment of a Mother to her little son fascinates us. In the first, the baby literally cuddles up to the mother, in the second, he gets up smiling and boldly, wrapping himself around the edge of the teenage Madonna’s veil, carefully keeps his leg in place so as not to fall. We are far beyond the influence of the Gothic forms of his teacher Lorenzo Ghiberti, and we are introduced to the beauty of a very sensitive naturalism that describes the extraordinary relationship between mother and child. Donatello would translate it into continuous variations on a theme that would also influence many other contemporary artists. But it is precisely in his irrepressible naturalistic need, brought to the search for the third dimension and in marble bas-relief, that we understand all the genius and innovative abilities of the Florentine sculptor. The friendship between Donatello and Filippo Brunelleschi actually produced great results, and perhaps the most original was the transfer to the genre of sculpture of the procedure developed by Filippo to control the spatial illusionism of the fourteenth century Florentine pictorial tradition in a system of mathematical measures. .
To remain at the core of the magnificent Donatellian Madonnas, we can only afford to be captured by the sophisticated, marvelous Mad Madonna (rightly chosen as the symbol of the Florentine exhibition), one of the most exciting Madonna and child throughout the Renaissance. Indeed, the sweet tenderness of two faces side by side captivates us, with a veil of melancholy on Mary’s face, which mysteriously warns of the dramatic fate of Jesus’ death, and instead, the almost unconscious smile of a child opening his mouth reveals his teeth while grabbing mother’s veil . A very striking bas-relief, framed in a kind of marble box on which Bambinello’s foot rests, in accordance with the perspective scheme derived from the teachings of Brunelleschi.
Also tiles in gilded bronze Herod’s Banquet is an scene constructed using Brunelleschi’s perspective, which allows Donatello to unfold the narrative at different levels, also thanks to his amazing ability to graduate the thickness of the figures almost in a circle to the “stiacciato” relief. This last technique, typical of Donatello, who was a master par excellence, makes it possible to create a relief with minimal variation in relation to the background and gives the observer the illusion of depth. Other bronze works in the exhibition related to Donatello’s stay in Padua to decorate the Basilica of Sant’Antonio (Miracle mule or very sad Image of piety) or works in marble and bronze from renowned museums abroad, such as the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery in London, confirm the exceptional skill of the Renaissance sculptor, both in bas-reliefs and in the most famous statues.,even permanently located in the same Bargello Museum (Victorious David e Saint George).
Finally, the comparison throughout the exhibition of the Master’s work with contemporary artists is remarkable. like Masaccio, Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini, but also with later ones like Raphael and Michelangelo (Madonna on the stairs), down to the sweetest Madonna and child Bronzino, who studied delicate marble well Madonna del Pugliese-Dudley Donatello, the great artist of whom Giorgio Vasari wrote: “Architects should recognize the greatness of art more from him than from anyone born in our time.”