Donato di Niccoló di Betto Bardi, universally known as Donatello, was one of the undisputed masters of the Renaissance and one of the greatest sculptors of all times.
An exceptionally talented artist, Donatello worked in marble, terracotta and bronze and his works are characterised by an intense expressivity that inspired many artists of the following generation. He trained for some time in the workshop of Lorenzo Ghiberti (c.1378-1455), at the time (c.1404-7) occupied with the execution of the doors of the Florentine Baptistry. Among his masterpieces are the marble Cantoria for the Cathedral in Florence, the David (today Bargello, Florence) and the Judith and Holofernes (Palazzo Vecchio, Florence), both bronzes commissioned by the Medici.
Exceptionally gifted working in the round as well as in low relief, Donatello successfully established two of the cardinal principles of Renaissance sculpture, that of the figura serpentinata (or sinuous figure) and of the so-called “schiacciato” (a technique based on the combination of a very low relief in the background of his works, creating an atmospheric contrast with the more accentuated relief in the foreground).
In the 1420s, Donatello set up an extremely busy workshop in partnership with Michelozzo di Bartolomeo (1396-1472), another Florentine sculptor and architect.
Equally influential were the works executed by Donatello during his Paduan sojourn (1443-53): the monumental marble altar for the Basilica del Santo and the bronze equestrian monument to the military commander (condottiere) Gattamelata.