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This review is taken from PN Review 43, Volume 11 Number 5, May - June 1985.

MOTION IN STONE Bonnie A. Bennett & David G. Wilkins, Donatello (Phaidon) £35

Only art historians will be able to respond authoritatively or critically to this finely written and beautifully illustrated monograph. The points I want to make are those of a grateful layman.

First, there is the matter of Donatello's confidence. He worked in marble, bronze, gilded terracotta, stone and terracotta, stucco, sandstone, enamelled inlay, wood with polychromy and gilding (the overwhelming Penitent Magdalene in the Duomo Museum in Florence) and, perhaps, mosaic. He contributed to urban and military planning and design. The celebrated bronze David, with its haunting, introspective sensuality, is most probably the first life-sized, free-standing nude figure sculpted in over a millennium. Donatello could work on a very restricted scale, achieving a unique effect of vital motion on the bronze doors of the Old Sacristy in San Lorenzo in Florence, and with equal mastery on large-scale figures such as the great equestrian monument to Gattemelata in Padua or on figures larger than life (now lost) meant to be seen from a distance on the sky-line of the Duomo. He also designed for stained glass.

Something of this prodigality of means and media was elemental to Picasso. But in Picasso the deliberate manipulation of preceding styles, works, techniques is constant. Donatello spellbinds by the unforced confidence of his inventions. He made wholly his own the recently-developed Brunelleschian system of linear perspective. Like no artist before him, Donatello co-ordinated the levels of narrative, the energies and meanings of the 'story' he was depicting with the differing, ...


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