Donatello is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle who was named after a famous sculptor and architect from the late 14th century...
His favorite weapon is the bo, and he likes to work on electronics and computers, write code and read reference books. He also likes to debate with his brothers about religion and science. Most of the time they ignore him, because they think he's boring. But they think he's pretty cool, anyway. And he fixes their stuff.

Well, yes, the brainy TMNT, but before that, the name was more familiar to art-lovers.

Donatello (1386-1466), also known as Donato di Nicolo Bardi, was an immensely prolific Italian sculptor of the early Renaissance period. He was certainly one of the most skilled of his time: many would say the most skilled sculptor of all time. He renewed the art of sculpture, with his works in and around Florence, Italy in the early 15th century.

Donatello could sculpt in any material, in any format: either bas-relief, a technique he can fairly be said to have re-invented, or full 3-D sculpture (in the round). He worked in wood, bronze and, of course, marble.

Even before Michelangelo and Leonardo, Donatello was the first sculptor to really study anatomy. Unlike those two greats, however, Donatello was not a cultured or educated man, and it is reported that people found him difficult to deal with. He never married, and died childless.

In in 1525 one Pietro Summonte wrote to Marcantonio Michiel:

"In the days of our fathers there lived in Florence, Donatello, a rare man who was rough and simple in everything but his sculpture, in which many believe that no one has been greater than he.  He executed many unusual objects and, talented though he was in his art, he was just as amenable and quick in expediting his many works, which can be admired to this day in various places."

Donatello's anatomical understanding--both of humans and animals--led him to create figures in which the proportions are correct; the muscle delineation true and the bone structure visible beneath the outer form. Beyond that, however, he created figures in which the proportions were deliberately distorted, in order to give make the figure appear in proportion to a viewer on the ground. He gave his figures expressions so that viewers could tell what they were thinking. He gave their faces character, so that people could imagine how they might have spoken and acted.

Donatello's bronze of David (1446) pre-dates the more famous marble figure by Michelangelo by over 50 years, and Donatello's figure was the first Renaissance sculpture to depict a naked man. Donatello's piece shows a much less macho David, wearing a flowered hat, with a round, angelic face. Not only was Donatello extremely talented, but he was quick with it. He was also the first to create sculptures purely for show, unconnected with a specific building, such as cathedral or temple. His figures stand by themselves, objects of the highest art. His model of sculpture remained unchallenged for 400 years, until the start of the 20th century and beginning of deconstructionism.

Major works include:

St. John the Evangelist, (1408-15) St. Peter, St. Mark, (1411-13) Habbakuk ('Lo Zuccone') (1423-26) St. George (1416-17) The Cantoria or Singing Gallery (1433-39 ) Penitent Magdalene, (c. 1453-55) Angel with Tambourine. Herod's Feast, (1425-27) St. Louis of Toulouse, St. Anthony, an equestrian statue called Gattamelata, (1444-53) Jeremiah. (1427)


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