Donatello exhibition at London's V&A showcases Renaissance masterpieces never before seen in the UK

London's Victoria and Albert Museum hosts unmissable exhibition on Donatello
London's Victoria and Albert Museum hosts unmissable exhibition on Donatello Copyright Mishko Papic/V&A MUSEUM
By Theo FarrantAP
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The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is hosting a major new exhibition called Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance, showcasing the work of Renaissance master Donatello.

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London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is hosting a major new exhibition, "Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance," which showcases the works of the exceptional Renaissance master, Donatello.

One of his most renowned works, a marble sculpture of David, stands proud as it surveys the exhibition’s visitors. The masterpiece was created by Donatello, who was born in Florence around 1386, and was later reworked by some of his followers.

Donatello was a pioneering artist of his time, and the exhibition highlights his illustrious career, from his early sculptures, such as the aforementioned David, to his move to Padua and his lasting influence on future generations of artists. 

The lead curator of the exhibition, Peta Motture, speaks highly of Donatello’s unique style: "What's so very special about Donatello was that he was able to combine the different styles, if you like, from the recent past with the new interest in the classical past to create his own distinctive approach to sculpture." 

"He had such an insight into the human being, into the human psyche, into human emotions. And that really comes through in his sculpture, regardless of what material he's using. And he uses a vast range of materials," he adds. 

Photo credit: London's V&A
Masterpieces by Donatello on display at London's V&APhoto credit: London's V&A
Photo credit: London's V&A
Interior wide shot of works by Donatello on display at London's V&APhoto credit: London's V&A

Donatello was known to work with a wide range of materials, including marble, bronze, wood, terracotta, stucco, and even gold, although none of his goldsmith work has survived. 

He was a huge influence on his contemporaries, and the exhibition showcases his works alongside those of other artists, including Bertoldo di Giovanni, Beltramino de Zuttis da Rho, and Filippo Lippi, who drew inspiration from the master. 

His impact was enormous. He was really the most important sculptor. And even those that followed, both immediately and in the 16th century, such as Michelangelo and others, were looking back to Donatello and were learning from him.
Peta Motture
Lead curator

The exhibition, which features around 130 objects, including over 50 that have never been displayed in the UK before, has received loans from museums worldwide, including institutions from Donatello’s hometown of Florence. 

However, Motture believes that a piece from the Victoria and Albert Museum’s own collection sheds some light on what the artist was like as a man. This small relief, titled "Lamentation over the Dead Christ," from about 1455-60, gives clues to the real Donatello, according to Motture.

"I think he does come across in his work because you can see somehow, for example, in our lamentation relief, the rawness and how he treats his material differently. You can imagine that he had this incredible strong personality himself, and it comes through in the way he treats his figures and the way he, as I said, he understands the human being, as it were, and how humans feel," says Motture. 

Victoria and Albert Museum
Lamentation over the Dead Christ, bronze, sculpted by Donatello, about 1455 – 1460, Italy.Victoria and Albert Museum

"Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance" runs until 11 June and is a must-see for lovers of art and history.

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