V&A South Kensington – Donatello

Sculpting the Renaissance – A Groundbreaking Exhibition in the UK

Closes Sunday, 11 June 2023

David, by Donatello, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence, Italy. Courtesy of the Ministry of Culture. Photo: Bruno Bruchi

The United Kingdom is set to host the first major exhibition dedicated to the Renaissance master, Donatello, titled “Sculpting the Renaissance.” This groundbreaking event will offer a fresh perspective on the artist’s exceptional talents and his influence on the cultural and artistic development of the Renaissance period. With many works never before displayed in the UK, this exhibition promises to be a unique and enlightening experience for visitors.

Donatello (c.1386-1466), arguably the greatest sculptor of all time, was at the forefront of a revolution in sculptural practice during the early Renaissance. His mastery of various materials and techniques, including marble, bronze, wood, terracotta, and stucco, was unparalleled. He was closely associated with the powerful Medici family in Florence and was highly sought after in other Italian art centers.

This exhibition will showcase several of Donatello’s works, such as his early marble David and bronze Attis-Amorino from the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence. Additionally, the exhibition will highlight his innovative techniques, collaborations, and inspirations within the vibrant artistic and cultural context of fifteenth-century Italy. The focus will primarily be on Donatello’s lifetime and immediate followers, exploring the inter-relationship between sculpture, paintings, drawings, and goldsmiths’ work.

Key works by Donatello will be complemented by carefully selected pieces by his contemporaries and followers, illustrating his major role in the development of Renaissance art and its context. The exhibition will comprise around 130 objects, including a significant number from the V&A’s own collections – notably from the Medieval & Renaissance Galleries and The Weston Cast Court.

This exhibition is the last in a series of three events made possible through collaboration with Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi, the Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence, and the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Each institution has drawn on its collections and curatorial expertise to stage distinct but complementary exhibitions, celebrating Donatello’s life and work for the first time in nearly forty years.

Peta Motture, Exhibition Lead Curator of “Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance,” stated that Donatello was a driving force behind the Italian Renaissance and an inspiration to artists across the centuries. This collaboration has enabled the V&A to present a remarkable insight into the artist’s training, relationships, and legacy. The exhibition offers visitors a unique opportunity to experience, enjoy, and discover Donatello’s astonishing talents and his wide-ranging impact on Renaissance and later art.

The exhibition will be divided into several sections, including Donatello’s Florentine Foundations, Tradition and Innovation, Bronzes: Sacred and Secular, Padua and Northern Italy, Devotion and Emotion, and Homage to Donatello. Each section will explore different aspects of Donatello’s career, inspirations, innovations, and contributions to the art world.

“Sculpting the Renaissance” promises to be an unforgettable experience for art enthusiasts and scholars alike. The exhibition will not only showcase the genius of Donatello but also provide a deeper understanding of the cultural and artistic context of the Renaissance era, which continues to resonate and inspire artists today.

Website: Sculpting the Renaissance

Madonna of the Clouds, by Donatello. Photo: © 2023. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

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