Two of the most successful artists in Florence during the 1470s, Andrea Verrocchio and Antonio Pollaiuolo, were sculptors who also ran painting workshops. Verrocchio’s pupil Leonardo da Vinci was a sculptor as well as a painter (although all that remains of his three-dimensional work is the remarkable bronze of a horse and rider in the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts). Michelangelo was trained by a painter, Domenico Ghirlandaio. But in Florence it was also part of the painter’s business to study sculpture, and the short step from drawing it to making it was irresistible. When the young Raphael arrived in Florence in 1504 – and he went there ‘to study’ – he paid as much attention to the sculpture of Donatello and Michelangelo as to the paintings by Leonardo and Fra Bartolommeo.
Janson The sculpture of Donatello (1957)
That we know the name of the artist who carved the Crucified Christ and its highly personal emotional response to the subject is a harbinger of the early Renaissance, which we encounter upstairs in the gallery devoted to the sculpture of Donatello. It is at this moment, in the first half of the 15th century, that we can really begin to speak of works of art in the sense that we use the word today. We know, for example, that Donatello’s low relief marble carving depicting the Ascension with Christ giving the Keys to St Peter was framed and hung on a wall by a Medici owner, implying that for the first time that was treated as an object of aesthetic, as opposed to religious, contemplation.
Janson, The Sculpture of Donatello (Princeton, 1957),
Janson, H. W. The Sculpture of Donatello. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1957. The section on Donatello’s Judith reveals the statue as a symbol of civic pride, an object of political metaphor for republics prevailing over monarchies. Includes sources of the first writings on this sculpture. Janson also writes on Donatello’s Feast of Herod, speaking of it as an demonstration of spatial and perspectival rendering.
Janson, The Sculpture of Donatello, Princetown 1957