Orsanmichele - Donatello's Works (1415)


Originally built as a marketplace in 1337, this gothic-style converted church is a unique example of 'niches-for-hire', in which Florence's guilds commissioned representative statues of their patron saints. In 1412, Donatello sculpted a statue of St. George for the armoury guild.

Donatello, as well as Ghiberti and Giambologna, were among the most sought after sculptors. The long-lasting importance of this guild church is shown by the range of dates of commissions (Tedesco's 'Madonna of the Rose' in 1399 - Giambologna's 'St Luke' in 1601).

St. George

This niche was made for an armoury guild and was taken off and put in a museum 40 years ago because Florence was too polluted.

The statue was originally in marble (one would have thought bronze because it was for an armoury however, they could not afford it). It is also unusual because St. George has such a classical style, for example his curly hair.

Interestingly, although he is wearing armour you can still see his chest and moreover the shape of his body. This is quite important because this means he is no longer a huge saint but has become a person, an individual. This plays on the idea that saints are people and is therefore a personification of ideas but that saints have become people you can identify with.

St. George stands with his feet apart which is a sign of confidence, and holds a shield. This shows he is a man of action, and suggests he is about to go into battle. Furthermore, his stance appears confident, positive, with his chest out. However, on the one hand, he looks like a man of action, summing himself up to do the deed, but on the other hand his eyes look a little reserved and hesitant. This again helps people relate to the natural human feelings. St. George symbolises chivalry, the crusades, fighting for God, and good vs evil. Donatello's scarring is very inventive with St. George. The shields have armour on each side, so you identify the type of amour.

Many cite it to be the statue of the Renaissance because this is the first example of applied Mathematical Perspective in sculpture. This statue was sculpted in 1415, approximately ten years before Masaccio's Holy Trinity. It has been applied in the arcading (on the right). The string course above it is stressed shallow relief at the back. This type of part or 'bas' relief is known as Relievo Schiacciato and depicts the moment of St. George slaying the dragon.

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