(b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze)
St Georgec. 1416
Marble, height 214 cm
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence
"For the Armourers' Guild Donatello made a very spirited figure of St George in armour, expressing in the head of this saint the beauty of youth, courage and valour in arms, and a terrible ardour. Life itself seems to be stirring vigorously within the stone "(Vasari).
The youthful period of Donatello is typified by his St George. This statue, executed around 1416, was placed in a niche on the north wall of Orsanmichele. The tensed expression of the young face shows its affinity with the ideal of David in the Bargello. The cloak gathered over the chest in a tight knot falls in folds whose spiral line retains an echo of the Gothic world, as does the position of the statue in its niche. But the problem of space has been overcome, and the St George, turning on the axis of the shield, moves with a great visionary force.
The base of the niche, with the bas-relief representing the saint's combat with the dragon for the freeing of the Princess of Cappadocia, also assumes a role of great importance due to the artist's use of the technique known as rilievo stiacciato, or flattened relief.
The positive appraisal of the St George in the 16th century is borne out by the writings of Vasari. In later centuries, when Donatello's works were generally ignored or mentioned only in local guides, the transfer (after 1677) of the statue of St George to the tabernacle of the Arte dei Medici e Speziali (made for the Madonna della Rosa), contributed to the diminishing of its beauty and therefore its fame. Donatello was rediscovered in the 19th century and St George, the masterpiece of Donatello was about to become the emblem of early Renaissance statuary.