A-Level: Renaissance in Italy—Religious sculpture in Florence + Rome + Venice

videos + essays

Donatello, <em>Feast of Herod</em>
Donatello, Feast of Herod

City-states vied for the best artists. After Ghiberti dragged his feet, Siena invited Donatello to finish the job.

Donatello, <em>David</em>
Donatello, David

His nudity references classical antiquity, but David embodies the ideals and concerns of 15th-century Florence.

Filippo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti, <em>Sacrifice of Isaac</em>
Filippo Brunelleschi and Lorenzo Ghiberti, Sacrifice of Isaac

Brunelleschi’s panel may be scarier, but Ghiberti’s is more emotionally complex. In both, an angel saves the day.

Michelangelo, <em>David</em>
Michelangelo, David

Where’s Goliath? David scans for his enemy. This colossal sculpture is itself a giant of 16th-century Renaissance art.

Donatello, <em>Saint George</em>
Donatello, Saint George

A soldier saint in Renaissance Florence.

Donatello, <em>St. Mark</em>
Donatello, St. Mark

When the citizens of Florence looked up at St. Mark, they saw a mirror of their own dignity—and of ancient nobility.

Lorenzo Ghiberti, <em>Gates of Paradise</em>, East Doors of the Florence Baptistry
Lorenzo Ghiberti, Gates of Paradise, East Doors of the Florence Baptistry

These gilded bronze doors are a masterpiece of clarity and illusionism. Space coheres, and figures move with ease.

Nanni di Banco, <em>Four Crowned Saints</em>
Nanni di Banco, Four Crowned Saints

Capturing figures in thought, stonemasons understood what it meant to be human—just like the ancient Romans.

Donatello, <em>Mary Magdalene</em>
Donatello, Mary Magdalene

This difficult sculpture is an exercise in contrasts: frailty and power, pure spirituality and anatomical accuracy.

Donatello, <em>Madonna of the Clouds</em>
Donatello, Madonna of the Clouds

This marble relief is as flat as Tuscan bread, yet its atmospheric space recedes into depth. Extraordinary.

Orsanmichele and Donatello’s <em>Saint Mark</em>, Florence
Orsanmichele and Donatello’s Saint Mark, Florence

From granary to—church? Once open to the city, this building and its niches blend the spiritual with the everyday.

Michelangelo, <em>Pietà</em>
Michelangelo, Pietà

Can stone be that soft? Contrast defines this sculpture. Mary is sweet but strong, and Christ, real yet ideal.