Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi, better known as Donatello, was born in Florence in 1386. Sculptor, goldsmith and also draftsman, he is considered one of the fathers of the Italian Renaissance, together with his friend Filippo Brunelleschi and Masaccio, as well as creator and highest representative of Florentine humanistic classicism. Of his formation it can be affirmed with certainty that in 1403 he is employed by the goldsmith and sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti, in his workshop. The first door of the Florentine Baptistery, in the finishes, bears the signature of Donatello, as well as that of his teacher.
In 1407 the great sculptor works alongside Nanni di Banco, commissioned by the Opera del Duomo, to a series of statues in which it is evident the attempt on the part of both to overcome and renew the Gothic and late Gothic language then prevailing in the Florentine art. In the marble David, made in 1409, Donatello begins to work on undulations, invigorating his plastic nature, still indebted to the Gothic style.
The years between 1404 and 1408 are very important for the Florentine artist. In addition to taking part in the architectural and sculptural works of the Florentine Duomo, the Campanile and the Orsanmichele, he makes some fruitful trips to Rome together with Filippo Brunelleschi. Here, both remain fascinated by art and ancient. The result of these trips is immediately found in Donatello, when he completes in 1416 the statue of San Giorgio, for a niche dell'Orsanmichele, and in the relief on the base with "The liberation of the princess from the dragon".
The statue soon became a symbol of Humanism, of the heroic vision of the fifteenth century man, whose strength is enhanced by the placement of the volume in a calibrated space, conceived according to the dictates of Brunelleschi's perspective. The rationality of the measures dear to his friend and architect, is forced in a brilliant way by Donatello in another equally cardinal work of his production: "The sacrifice of Isaac", for the group of the bell tower, of 1421.
Four years later, in 1425, Donatello opened the shop together with Michelozzi, to the registry office Michelozzo Di Bartolomei, also a great Italian sculptor and architect. The association lasts until 1433. During this time, works such as the bronze tile of the baptistery of the Baptistery of Siena, with the splendid Banquet of Herod created by Donatello, or the tombs of the antipope John XXIII in the Florentine Baptistery or the , important, those of Cardinal Brancacci for Sant'Angelo a Nilo, in Naples. In this last work, dated 1427, Donatello skilfully applies the technique he invented of the "stiacciato" or "schiacciato", detectable in the relief of the Assumption, in which he applies variations to the millimeter of the thicknesses, but functional to the creation of a space illusory.
Between 1432 and 1433 the Florentine sculptor made a new trip to Rome. During this stay, again with Michelozzo, he created the "Tabernacle of the Sacrament" in San Pietro and the "Lastra tombale Crivelli" at the Aracoeli. But it is on his return, in his Florence, that Donatello completes some of his unforgettable masterpieces, such as the famous bronze "David". In the nude, all round, the influences of classical studies made during the Roman stay are revealed: the model, in fact, is that of ancient statuary, but the originality of Donatello lies in the fusion between the re-enactment of the ancient and the restlessness of the modeled, in which a continuous modulation of light and shadow is in progress. Another opera coeval with the David di Donatello, is the Cantoria del Duomo in Florence where, as in the Duomo of Prato, the "putti" in their dances are "unleashed", a sign of the variety of inspiration of the great sculptor.
Between 1435 and 1443 also the dramatic excitement of the Apostles and Martyrs ends at the two bronze doors of the Sacristy of the old church of San Lorenzo, in Florence. Just in 1443 Donatello was called to Padua to perform the equestrian monument to the captain of fortune Erasmo da Narni called Gattamelata. His stay lasts about ten years. The work of Padua is important because it allows Donatello to revive the late-Gothic styles still in vogue in the north. From that moment on, the Renaissance spread throughout the Upper Italy.
With the local sculptors Bellamo and Riccio, in these years he also worked on the monumental altar of the Saint, in the homonymous Basilica. The work The Gattamelata instead, performed from 1447 to 1453 and inspired by antiquity, is important for the portraiture vision of the face of the protagonist, fixed in an expression of contained tension.
In 1454 Donatello returned to his Florence. Elder, he continues his artistic activity in his workshop, in which he appears as the sculptor Bertoldo. The bronze crown of Giuditta and Oloferne dates back to the latter period, in Palazzo Medici, built between 1455 and 1460.
Donatello died in Florence on December 13, 1466 at the age of 80.