Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi properly known as, Donatello could be considered a very mysterious man. For one thing, his exact date of his birth continues to be an unanswered question for scholars (cite); though, he is dated to have been born around 1386 in Florence, Italy (cite). Donatello was influenced by his father’s status as a member of the Florentine Wool Combers Guild and as a craftsmen which helped make way for the development of Donatello’s artistic talent (cite).
And in a different manner, Donatello’s artistic talent was also influenced by Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455), a Florentine artist of the Early Italian Renaissance Art Period (cite) whom Donatello worked under as an apprentice until 1424 (cite). Mentioning Ghiberti’s influence on Donatello artistic ability is very crucial in understanding the artist’s artistic development. Ghiberti was known for his works: the beyond-lifesize-sculpture of St. John the Baptist in Orsanmichele and the marble statue of San Matteo (cite).
Furthermore, Ghiberti’s most notable work was that of being the creator of the bronze doors of the Florence Baptistery, named the Gates of Paradise (cite). It is said that Ghiberti had no special training in anatomy, yet he understood how to represent the difference between bone and muscular tissue, as well as the dynamic possibilities of muscles and the softness of skin (Hart, 2011). Ghiberti paid special attention to the details of hair, facial features and the body (Hart, 2011). His style would draw much of the Florentine Gothic appearances.
After his apprenticeship with Ghiberti, Donatello went to Rome where he studied Roman Classical Art with his friend, Brunelleschi, who was also an Italian Renaissance artist. To that end, Brunelleschi pushed and influenced the Gothic style onto Donatello (cite). And with the leadway of his father and the influences of the mentorship with Ghiberti, along with studying with his friend, Brunelleschi, Donatello learned to give his sculptures very humanial characteristics. He had the ability to see and to understand optical corrections and perspective (cite).
One great example of Donatello’s talent is demonstrated in his statue, St. Mark: the product of the artist’s ingenious merging of classical ideas with the tenets of the Renaissance and his keen ability to use optical correction (Artble, 2017). Accordingly, this paper will highlight the Italian Renaissance artist, Donatello and his work, St. Mark. About Donatello birth, life put here Before being commissioned at the beginning of the fifteenth century to create the statue St. Mark, Donatello’s first known work was, David (1408-09), a statue standing about 5′ tall and made of bronze (cite).
Donatello used symbolism and texture to complete this statue (cite). Furthermore, the statue served as one of the first pieces of Donatello that demonstrated his use of optical correction. Creating the David statue was a big step for Donatello since many well known artists of that time were being commissioned to create artworks that displayed biblical stories. Thus, being commissioned to create the statue of David was Donatello’s contribution to the religious artworks of that time.
Another sculpture that demonstrates Donatello’s ability to use optical correction before his best known work, St. Mark was his sculpture, St. John the Evangelist (1415). In Avery and McHam’s article, Donatello, they point out that, “Donatello deliberately distorted the proportions of his St. John the Evangelist statue in order to compensate for the effects of foreshortening (cite) [when it was seen from below by passers bys]. Authors Avery and McHam continued to point out, “Donatello made the torso unnaturally elongated because but it corresponded correctly with observers when the statue was in its original niche which Donatello was acutely conscious of the settings of all his statutes (Avery, McHam, 2013).
For this reason], this may be counted as a Renaissance tendency (Avery, McHam, 2013). Donatello’s style differed from the Gothic style of Ghiberti’s and from his friend, Brunelleschi through his continued use of optical correction. Donatello created his own way to draw attention to his works of art and St. Mark is a great demonstration of that skill. During the first half of the fourteenth century, Florence’s decaying market hall was demolished to construct Orti San Michaelis, the Orsanmichele, a corn exchange and meeting place for the various guilds of Florence.
Each guild was given its individual niche and in 1339 each was requested to decorate their niche. The guilds, however, were sluggish to commence work, in as much as, when the fifteenth century had begun, no work had not yet been commissioned. To change that, the city of Florence delivered a proclamation. “If decoration of each niche had not begun within the following ten years, the offending guilds would have their niche seized and transferred to another. ” With this position, the guilds finally started their work.
Competitions were fierce as each guild wanted to have the most stunningly ornamented guild. To this point, however, making opposition for Florence’s best artists brutal. Lorenzo Ghiberti, Donatello’s mentor, was quickly commissioned by the guild of cloth finishers and merchants to sculpt St. John the Baptist (cite). And in 1411 Donatello was commissioned by the Arte dei Linaioli also called as the Guild of Linen Merchants for the Orsanmichele church, whose patron was St. Mark to be their niche decorator, to sculpt St. Mark (cite).
Donatello began work immediately, choosing to work with marble, a less expensive material, instead of bronze (cite). The agreement with the city of Florence specified that the work had to be completed and in its setting no later than November 1, 1412 (cite). Nevertheless, as was frequently the situation in that time, the time limit had to be prolonged. It is said, Donatello finished St. Mark sometime in 1413 and the guild members were very critical of it when first seen.
Nevertheless, at the statue’s unveiling, when St. Mark set high up in its niche, in the Orsanmichele, its drawn-out torso, condensed legs, and uge head looked outstanding in their apparently textbook proportion, thus the guild members’ reactions then turned from very critical to most favorable (cite). Donatello’s sculpture, St. Mark was stands 7 feet 9 inches tall, much larger than Donatello’s beginning statue, David and was placed in a niche that was already in existence in the building of Orsanmichele. Consequently, because in this setting it meant only the front of the statue would be visible (cite). This somewhat mishap had an impact on how Donatello would complete the statue.
Because on the backside of the statue, St. Mark, Donatello left it not completely carved (cite). And when the statue was finally completed it was placed in the niche where it stood for centuries, but today it stands in the church museum and a copy of the statue stands in the niche where the original formerly stood (Artable, 2017). Donatello represents St. Mark in his statue standing in a pose known as contrapposto (natural pose) (Hart, 2011). This stance lets the left knee come forward against the cloth to demonstrate relaxation, while the straight folds reinforce the weight bearing leg (Hart, 2011).
The drapery on the St. Mark statue is very important to note because it demonstrates the way Donatello expresses movement. It is different from earlier statues because of how freely Donatello allows the drapery to flow. Hart gives credit to Donatello. He expresses, “The statue can be described as a mutation because St. Mark defies the traditional methods and art styles as seen by Ghiberti and Brunelleschi. ” In other words, Donatello created the St. Mark statue in a way that is more realistically presentable to the common viewers. The stone statue holds a book of Religion in its left hand, where the veins in the hand are observable.
St. Mark in his “contrapposto” pose, with thin eyebrows and slender eyes depict the saint’s tranquility. St. Mark is standing in a relaxed position and looks as though he will walk at any moment (cite). Since it was from a linen guild, Donatello highlighted the garments on St. Mark. His mantle falls almost to the ground and St. Mark’s clothing exposes his body structure, which was unusual during that time. Because during the middle ages, the sculptures were generally shielded in garments with the body veiled. While St. Mark’s left hand holds the book, his right-hand clutches his robe.
And divine holiness is represented by the pillow St. Mark stands in. Donatello carved his garments with rumples waving in harmony with realistic movements that St. Mark’s body would make if in motion. In as much as the statue is not at eye level, Donatello lengthened St. Mark’s upper body, increased the sizes of the head and hands, and condensed his legs. When seen from ground level, the statue looks relatively well built nevertheless, the guilds were not happy when they saw the short legs and Donatello could not convince them, otherwise.
After that Donatello covered the statue with a cloth for 15 days and did not try to alter it. He then placed the statue in its niche, above a street. When St. Mark was revealed, the guilds were wholly persuaded of its beauty and of its classic style. Thus, during the Renaissance Age the statue, St. Mark statue was the first statue that revealed the body’s form through garments. Therefore, this exhibition domineered the conventional International Gothic Style. Uniquely, St. Mark’s beard and robes resonated the Gothic saints.
Initially, as aforestated, the statue was to be finished by November 1, 1412 but the date got extended and it was finished in 1413. Beneath the statue of St. Mark is a lion with wings, which is Mark’s symbol, consequential from Mark’s words in the Bible: “Voice of one crying out in the desert” (Mark 1:3) describing John. There is a similar bronze lion in St. Mark’s square. St. Mark no longer stands in the Orsanmichele niche, however. Today it stands in an honored place in the church museum. A copy of St. Mark now stands in the original niche.