Donatello, real name Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi (1386?-1466), Italian Renaissance sculptor, who is generally considered one of the greatest sculptors of all time and the founder of modern sculpture.
Donatello was born in Florence, the son of a wool comber. When he was 17 years old, he assisted the noted sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti in constructing and decorating the famous bronze doors of the baptistery of San Giovanni, Florence. Later, Donatello was also an associate of the noted architect Filippo Brunelleschi, with whom he reputedly visited Rome in order to study the monuments of antiquity.
Donatello's career may be divided into three periods. The first and formative period comprised the years before 1425, when his work is marked by the influence of Gothic sculpture but also shows classical and realistic tendencies. Among his sculpture of this period are the statues St. Mark (Church of Or San Michele, Florence), St. George (Bargello, Florence), John the Evangelist (Opera del Duomo, Florence), and Joshua (campanile of the cathedral, Florence).
The second period (1425-1443) is generally characterized by a reliance on the models and principles of the sculpture of antiquity. From 1425 to 1435 Donatello worked with the Florentine sculptor and architect Michelozzo on a number of projects, including the monument to Bartolomeo Aragazzi (Cathedral of Montepulciano). In their joint work Michelozzo executed the architectural designs and also helped in the making of the bronze castings; Donatello executed most of the statues. From 1430 to 1433 Donatello spent periods in Rome, where he created a number of works, notably the ciborium in the sacristy of the Basilica of Saint Peter, decorated with the reliefs Worshiping Angels and Burial of Christ. It was in Florence, however, that he created the most noted work of this period—the bronze David (circa 1430-1435, Bargello), the first nude statue of the Renaissance.
In his third and culminating period, Donatello broke away from classical influence and in his work emphasized realism and the portrayal of character and of dramatic action. Notable examples of his sculpture of this period are Miracles of St. Anthony (Sant' Antonio, Padua); Gattamelata (in the square before Sant' Antonio), the first bronze equestrian statue since ancient times; and Judith and Holofernes (Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence).
The sculpture of Donatello influenced that of Florence and northern Italy in the 15th century. It was also a major stimulus on the development of realism in Italian painting, notably in the work of the great Paduan artist Andrea Mantegna. Donatello, who died on December 13, 1466, had many pupils, the most important of whom was Desiderio da Settignano.