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