Relief of Virgin and Child, possibly Donatello

Relief of Virgin and Child, possibly Donatello

Relief of Virgin and Child
Possibly Donatello
Italy
About 1455-1460
Gilded terracotta
Museum no. 57:1-1867

The gossipy historian Giorgio Vasari (described by Adrian Stokes as 'the most successful booster in all history') said Donatello invented the type of low relief sculpture known as schiacciato (literally: squashed). What Donatello also invented was a style of sculpture that, while exceptionally graceful on the surface, suggested great emotional tension under the repose of those same squashed surfaces. Donatello was self-conscious in his attempts to rival classical sculpture, but he also drew from life. His Christ-child is both a Florentine urchin and a pagan amorino. But in turning emotion into stone Donatello exceeds his antique masters. The sight of the Donatellos in Florence inspired the poet B.H. Fairchild to write: 'What are you thinking? And I say Beauty thinking/of how very far we are now from the machine shop/and the dry fields of Kansas'.

Stephen Bayley, Guest Curator