Donatello in exhibition in Florence
At Palazzo Strozzi and the Bargello Museums, the artist who changed the history of art and kicked off the Florentine Renaissance
Until 31 July, the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi and the Musei del Bargello present Donatello, the Renaissance, a historic and unrepeatable exhibition - the most beautiful among those proposed for the Florentine spring - that aims to reconstruct the exceptional path of one of the most important and influential masters of Italian art of all time, comparing it with masterpieces by artists of his time such as Brunelleschi and Masaccio, Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini, but also later artists such as Raphael and Michelangelo.
A revolutionary artist in the use of materials, techniques and genres: that is how Palazzo Strozzi and Musei del Bargello describe Donatello. One of the Medicis’ favorite artists, Donatello emerged on the art scene in the 1400s and disrupted it with his revolutionary approach: he put Man and the human condition at the center of all things, in all their depth, in all the nuances of emotions, from sweetness to cruelty, from joy to the most excruciating pain.
He marked the beginning of the Florentine Renaissance season, one of the most exciting ones in human history. The exhibition explores the figure of an artist who left quite the mark on 15th -century art, a sculptor and architect who would become a mentor for entire generations of artists with whom he developed and generously shared his knowledge. His art was peculiar also in that it was spread around Italy, from Tuscany to Veneto and Marche, from Rome to Naples, in a way comparable only with Giotto and, later on, with Raphael, Michelangelo and Bernini. His modern and unconventional spirit spurred him to constantly challenge himself by creating an always independent style that defied the fashions and taste of the time: an artist who shifted his creative focus from ancient and medieval art to a new way of seeing and understanding the world. Donatello, The Renaissance ( March 19– July 31), curated by Francesco Caglioti, Medieval Art History Professor at Pisa’s Scuola Normale Superiore, explores this artist’s extraordinary career by juxtaposing his works with those by other artists of his days, such as Brunelleschi and Masaccio, Mantegna and Giovanni Bellini, but also subsequent artists like Rafael and Michelangelo, and makes us see him in a different light by scraping off the patina of perfection that usually envelops such masterworks of art.
130 works on show, including sculptures, drawings and paintings and unique loans, some of which never granted before, from over 50 major museums and international institutions. The exhibition is held in two venues, Palazzo Strozzi and Museo Nazionale del Bargello, and starts with a look at the beginning of Donatello’s career and at the dialogue with Brunelleschi by juxtaposing the two famous wooden crucifixes from the Basilica of Santa Croce and the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella.
Then come the places where Donatello worked (Siena, Prato and Padova, besides Florence), coming into contact and influencing other famous artists such as Mantegna and Bellini, and always experimenting with different materials in order to pursue his new and revolutionary idea of sculpting. The exhibition ends with a special section devoted to Donatello’s influence on subsequent generations of artists, including Raphael, Michelangelo and Bronzino, thus, testifying to the importance of his artwork for the evolution of Italian art. On show at Palazzo Strozzi are masterworks such as Donatello’s marble David and the Amore-Attis from the Bargello Museum, the Spiritelli from the Duomo of Prato’s pulpit, the Crucifix and relief sculptures for the altar of the Basilica of Sant’Antonio in Padova, and the Madonna with Child from the Detroit Institute of Arts.
At the National Bargello Museum, the exhibition features Donatello’s bronze David and Saint George, juxtaposed with works by Filippo Scolari, known as Pippo Spano, and Farinata degli Uberti, frescoes by Andrea del Castagno from the Uffizi Gallery, the David Martelli by Donatello, exceptionally on loan from the National Gallery of Washington, the Madonna of the Clouds from the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, the Madonna Dudley from London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and the Madonna of the Stairs by Michelangelo. Exhibited for the first time ever outside of their original location, at Palazzo Strozzi, are The Feast of Herod from the Baptistry of Siena’s Cathedral, and the Doors for the Old Sacristy of the Church of San Lorenzo, which are two of the several works which have undergone restoration on the occasion of the exhibition.