Donatello began his career as a goldsmith. At the age of twelve, he began working in the shop of the great architect Brunelleschi in 1399. Next, Donatello had the opportunity to work as an apprentice for the most famous sculptor of the time Lorenzo Ghiberte. He assisted Ghiberte in constructing and decorating the famous bronze doors for baptistery in Florence.
Each bronze door contained fourteen sculpted panels with scenes from the New Testament. It took Ghiberte almost twenty years to complete the doors. This experience of studying under Ghiberte continues to influence Donatellos style of sculpting for the rest of his life. Donatellos first work of art, which was recognized, was a larger than life, statue of St. Mark.
The statue measured seven feet nine inches and was sculpted out of marble. This was his first great sculpture. It took him more than two years to finish. The thing that is most remarkable about the statue is the penetrating gaze of St. Mark.
Michelangelo is reported to have said that he had never seen anyone who looked more like a honest man then Donatellos statue of St. Mark. Donatellos earliest sculptures were very realistic In 1415 Donatello was commissioned to sculpt a statue of St. George, the slayer of dragons. The statue stands today in Florence. It took him two years to complete the six foot nine inch statue.
The statue of St. George is that he seems very alive. The youthful looking St. George is dressed in a full suit of armor and his eyes are fired on his sword arm. Although, the statue stands firmly you almost sense that he is ready to move.
The body language of St. George suggests a person ready for battle. The face and pose of St. George is very vivid and controlled that is compared to the classical Greek and Roman sculptures.
By the time Donatello was in his late thirties, wealthy people were buying his sculptures. The Medici family of Florence commissioned most of his works. The Medicis dominated the financial and political house of Florence for several generations. Donatello sculpted a four-foot six-inch bronze statue of David, which was the biblical hero for the Medici Family. David was one of Donatellos most famous sculptures.
His sculpture of David was inspired by many works of Ancient Rome. It was also the first nude figure to be cast in bronze since the end of the Roman Empire. The statue captures a mood of triumph as David gazes down quietly at the severed head of Goliath. Portraying a mood or emotion in his sculptures, was definitely Donatellos style.
In 1446 Donatello sculpted his largest statue, Gattamelate. Donatello was hired to sculpt a statue of Erasmo da Narni, a well-known mercenary who died in 1443. The statue Gattamelata stands today in Piazzo del Santo in Padua. The statue measured eleven feet two inches. The horse in Gattamelata is a life size horse built to carry a warrior in full armor. The statue is a horse frozen in mid stride moving forward with authority and power.
Donatello has portrayed an emotion in his sculpture. Donatellos sculpting style continued to show natural and realistic figures. After completing the statue of Gattamelata, Donatello accepted commissions in several northern Italian cities, but he returned to Florence in 1554 at the age of sixty-seven. He continued to work full time and employed at least twenty apprentices to help meet the demands of his work.
Donatellos later works became more philosophical than earlier in his life. He focused on biblical stories that illustrated moral values. In 1454 Donatello sculpted a statue of Mary Mogdalena. The statue of Mary Magdalena was a wooden statue measuring six feet two inches.
At first sight, most viewers are horrified at the freakish sight of her