8 Most Famous Donatello Sculptures

Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (1386-1466), better known as simply Donatello, was one of the most influential artists of the Renaissance. He studied classical sculpture in Rome and incorporated his findings into his own style.

This Renaissance style of sculpture would influence numerous artists that followed him. In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the top 8 most famous Donatello sculptures.

1. David

  • Date created: 1440s (exact date unknown)
  • Location: Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

David by Donatello is not to be confused with one of the most famous sculptures of all time, The Statue of David by Michelangelo. He created a marble David which was to be placed on one of the buttresses of Florence Cathedral but was too small to be visible (which is why Michelangelo made his David so huge.

His bronze David was the first nude sculpture ever created since antiquity and the first unsupported standing work of bronze cast during the Renaissance.

David by Donatello
Bronze Statue of David / Lee M / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

2. Saint John the Evangelist

  • Date Created: 1409-1411
  • Location: Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence

One of the first commissions of Donatello as a young artist was a massive statue of Saint John the Evangelist. This statue originally decorated the old façade of Florence Cathedral until the year 1588.

It’s described as one of the first statues that clearly moved away from the elaborate Gothic style to a more realistic and naturalistic style which eventually defined the Renaissance.

Saint John the Evangelist by Donatello
Saint John the Evangelist / Donatello / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

3. Bust of Niccolo da Uzzano

  • Date Created: 1432
  • Location: Bargello Museum, Florence

To emphasize the fact that Donatello was able to work with just about any material to create his sculptures, one of the most famous Donatello sculptures is a bust of a man named Niccolò da Uzzano which was made in polychrome terracotta.

Da Uzzano (1359 – 1431) was a famous politician in Florence and the Gonfaloniere of Justice. The sculpture was created one year after the man passed away and offers a very realistic view of his appearance.

da Uzzano bust by Donatello
da Uzzano / Donatello / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

4. Saint Mark

  • Date Created: 1411-1413
  • Location: Orsanmichele, Florence

The Statue of Saint Mark was another sculpture created during Donatello’s younger years which stands about 236 centimeters (93 inches) tall. It is on display in the collection of the Orsanmichele Church in Florence.

A copy of the sculpture can be found outside of the church in a niche that used to house the original. The statue is famous for its detailed realism as even the veins on the hands of Saint Mark are visible.

Saint Mark famous Donatello Sculptures
Saint Mark / Sailko / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

5. The Penitent Magdalene

  • Date Created: 1453-1455
  • Location: Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Florence

The Penitent Magdalene is one of the most famous wooden Donatello sculptures and is believed to have been commissioned by the Baptistery of Florence. It was created with the wood of the silver poplar tree and again emphasizes the versatility of the artist.

The statue is so different from how Magdalene is portrayed in contemporary art that it can easily be described as revolutionary. The beautiful young woman as Magdalene was mostly shown was changed into an aging woman, which is obviously a more realistic depiction.

penitent magdalene by Donatello
Penitent Mgdalene / Donatello / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5

6. Equestrian statue of Gattamelata

  • Date Created: 1453
  • Location: Piazza del Santo, Padua

The Equestrian statue of Gattamelata is considered to be the first statue of its kind created since antiquity. It depicts condottiere Erasmo da Narni, known as “Gattamelata,” and commanded an army in the Republic of Venice.

Because this bronze statue was put in a public square (where it still resides today) in Padua, it became the inspiration for hundreds of similar statues in the future, making it a truly inspirational work of art.

Gattamelatta statue donatello
The equestrian statue / Wiki Commons

7. Saint George

  • Date Created: 1415-1417
  • Location: Bargello Museum, Florence

The Statue of Saint George is another one of the sculptures commissioned by the guilds of Florence to decorate the outside of the Orsanmichele Church in Florence. It used to decorate the church until the year 1892 when it was moved to the Bargello Museum in Florence.

From 1892 until 2008, a bronze replica was put inside the niche where the original statue used to stand until it was replaced in the same year with a marble one that looks exactly like the original.

Saint George by Donatello
Saint George / Yair Haklai / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

8. The Feast of Herod

  • Date Created: 1427
  • Location: Battistero di San Giovanni, Siena

The Feast of Herod is another one of those intriguing Donatello Sculptures because it’s not just one of his first bas reliefs, another form of sculpture that would make him famous, but also the first one to be cast in bronze.

Even though it only measures 60 by 60 centimeters, it appears to be depicting a huge scene. This is because of Donatello’s intricate use of perspective. It depicts the moment after the beheading of John the Baptist and his head is put on a platter and appears on the baptistery of the Cathedral of Siena.

Feast of Herod by Donatello
The Feast of Herod / Sailko / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en