The Ascension Relief by Donatello, 1428-30

'The Ascension with Christ giving the Keys to St Peter', marble panel carved in low relief, by Donatello, 1428-30, Florence, Italy. Museum no. 7629-1861

'The Ascension with Christ giving the Keys to St Peter', marble panel carved in low relief, by Donatello, 1428-30, Florence, Italy. Museum no. 7629-1861, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Donatello is regarded as one of the greatest sculptors of the 1400s. This relief is one of the finest surviving examples of his innovative work in extremely low relief (known as rilievo schiacciato). The central figure shows Christ ascending to heaven. He is shown giving the keys to the kingdom of heaven to St Peter. These two separate events, known as The Ascension and The Donation of the Keys, are not usually combined. The Virgin, with her back to the viewer, kneels to the left. This central group are surrounded by the Apostles, the followers of Jesus.

Donatello makes use of linear perspective to suggest distance, notably in the recession of the trees and figures. The lightly etched angels in the sky, the trees on the hills fading into the background , and , further away to the left, the just glimpsed towers of Jerusalem, are bold new developments.

Audio: Description of the Ascension Relief by Donatello

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