Donatello Biography

Early Life

Born as Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi around 1386 in Florence, Italy, Donatello grew up during the early years of the Italian Renaissance. He was a son to Niccolo di Betto Bardi, who was a member of the Florentine Wool Combers Guild. Little is known about his mother. The artist was given the nickname “Donatello” which he would become more famously known by.


As a youth, Donatello was educated in the house of the Martelli family, one of the wealthiest Florentine families. He received his earliest artistic training in a goldsmith’s workshop before working briefly in the studio of Lorenzo Ghiberti, a sculptor of the Early Renaissance.


Obviously influenced by the work of his early teacher, Lorenzo Ghiberti, Donatello was also greatly affected by the sculptures and buildings in Rome when he visited the city with Brunelleschi in the early 1400s. Other influences include classical and Gothic art forms. His expertise in depicting human emotions and usage of perspective were greatly influenced by the humanist ideas of the time.

Major Artwork

Donatello made his mark through his work on the Prophets, a group of sculptures carved for the exterior of the Florence Cathedral. Other significant works include “St. George”, “St. Mark,” “The Feast of Herod,” and “The Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata.”

However, his best-known work is “David,” created around the 1440s. It is the first known free-standing nude statue produced since antiquity and the first unsupported standing work in bronze cast during the Renaissance. This piece marked a departure from Gothic styles and served as a prototype of the Renaissance style.

Art Movements

Donatello was considered a pioneer of the Early Renaissance style. He was one of the front-runners who moved away from the International Gothic style towards a more naturalistic, detailed, and direct approach inspired by Classical art. His experimental perspective, unprecedented naturalism and highly original technique contributed significantly to the founding of the Renaissance style.


Donatello passed away on December 13, 1466, leaving an indelible imprint on the world of sculpture and art. His illustrious career marked several milestones in the development of art, and he was arguably the most significant sculptor of the Early Renaissance. His work comprised an essential link between the classic and the modern, and his innovations had a profound influence on generations of artists to follow.