The Genius of Michelangelo, influenced by the Genius of Donatello.

The Genius of Michelangelo, influenced by the Genius of Donatello.
23 September 2016 0 Comment

Perfect Traveller is convinced that Michelangelo was influenced by his mentor Donatello even though the two never met.

From 1490 to 1492 Michelangelo lived in the house of the great Lorenzo de’ Medici (known as Lorenzo the Magnificent), whose palace was a gathering place for many of Europe’s most important artists, philosophers, and poets. During this time Michelangelo, was instructed and tutored under the watchful eye of Bertoldo di Giovanni an aging master who had trained with Donatello, the greatest sculptor of 15th-century Florence. Donatello’s legacy in sculpture was revered by all, including the Medici.

Lorenzo de’ Medici wished to revive the art of sculpture in the classical manner of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and he had a collection of ancient art that Michelangelo doubtless studied. Classical art provided an inspiration and a standard of excellence that Michelangelo hoped to surpass, but the young artist was besotted with the work of Donatello and his teacher Bertoldo di Giovanni continually exposed the young Michelangelo to the works and sculptural processes of his great master, Donatello. We should not be surprised then that something of Donatello rubbed off on Michelangelo!

A wonderful example of such a profound influence can be seen in the statue of John the Evangelist by Donatello, dated 1408 and Moses by Michelangelo, dated between 1513-1515 and considered a masterpiece of the high Renaissance and rightly so. But I take some comfort in the fact that even a true genius of the standing of the great Michelangelo, looks over his shoulder to the past to absorb the lessons of another great master. The sitting position of Donatello’s masterpiece, including the way his John holds a book in the left hand is mirrored by Michelangelo in his Moses, the difference being of course that Moses holds the Ten Commandants in his right hand. The use of the folds of clothing to help create a strong and powerful figure with a dominant presence is magnified as a treatment in the Moses. The flowing beard of John who stares straight out at us is copied as an effect by Michelangelo, who turns the head of Moses to his left.

It’s a continuum of influence and knowledge that adds links to a never ending chain of creative endeavor, and is only one of the many reasons why an interest in history has a place in all our lives. Even today!

Peter Kilby
About the Author

Peter Kilby is an artist, writer, story-teller, journalist and avid traveller who has lived and worked in Italy since 1987. He created Perfect Traveller to bring the world of art and history closer to you. Download the “free” Perfect Traveller app and enjoy the best audio tours available; about Italy today and yesterday. Sign Up to this website and submit your travel stories and become part of the Perfect Traveller community.

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