This subtly carved marble relief of the Ascension with Christ giving the Keys to St Peter was made by Donatello (about 1386–1466), the most innovative and important sculptor of 15th-century Italy.
It is carved using a technique known as rilievo schiacciato (literally squashed or flattened relief) that Donatello is credited with having invented. He married classical and Gothic styles to create extraordinary works that capture human emotions through dramatic gesture, body language and expression.
Donatello was born and died in Florence, but he also worked for patrons elsewhere in Italy, including Prato, Siena, Naples and notably Padua, where he spent nearly ten years of his life.The Republic of Florence was effectively ruled by the Medici, a powerful banking family, for much of this period.Donatello was a favourite of Cosimo de' Medici (1389–1464), the grandfather of Lorenzo the Magnificent.
The marble relief of the Ascension was listed in the inventory of the Medici Palace taken after Lorenzo's death in 1492, framed and hanging on the wall of his apartments.
Artistic production was flourishing in Florence at this time, with patrons vying to attract the best artists to embellish religious, civic and domestic buildings and to make devotional and domestic objects.The talented Donatello was much in demand.His powerful sculptures could be seen across the cityscape of Florence.
This film has been supported by the Bonita Trust
Objects by Donatello from the V&A's collections
Lamentation Over the Dead Christ
Lamentation Over the Dead Christ Donatello (c. 1386-1466) Bronze Florence, Italy About 1455-1460 Museum no. 8552-1863
The Virgin and Child with Four Angels (The Chellini Madonna) Donatello (about 1386-1466) Bronze with gilded decoration Florence, Italy About 1450 Museum no. A.1-1976
Chellini Madonna (obverse)
The Virgin and Child with Four Angels (The Chellini Madonna) (obverse) Donatello (about 1386-1466) Bronze with gilded decoration Florence, Italy About 1450 Museum no. A.1-1976
Glass reproduction of the Chellini Roundel
Reproduction of the Chellini Roundel Glass 1976 Museum no. REPRO.A.1976-1
Winged boy with a fish
Winged boy with a fish Donatello (about 1386-1466) Bronze with traces of gilding Florence, Italy About 1435-1440 Museum no. 475-1864
Stucco plaque Painted and gilded stucco Donatello (about 1386-1466) Wooden frame probably painted by Paolo di Stefano (1937-1478) Florence, Italy About 1435-1440 Museum no. A.45-1926
Plaquette with Virgin and Child
Plaquette with Virgin and Child Donatello (about 1386-1466) Bronze Florence, Italy Mid 15th century Museum no. 7474-1861
The Verona Madonna
The Verona Madonna Donatello (about 1386-1466) Stucco Probably Verona, Italy About 1450-1475 Museum no. A.1-1976
The Flagellation and Crucifixtation (The Forzori Altar)
The Flagellation and Crucifixtation (The Forzori Altar) Donatello (about 1386-1466) or his circle Terracotta About 1440-1450 Probably Padua, Italy Museum no. 7619-1861