(b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze)

St John the Baptist

Polychrome wood, height 141 cm
Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, Venice

The Chapel of St John the Baptist is dominated by the wooden statue of Donatello. The restoration finished in 1973 revealed Donatello's original concept that had been covered over by two repaintings. Thus also the Master's signature and the date of 1438 were rediscovered. It is the only statue by Donatello left in Venice. Mortified by penance, clothed in shaggy hide with a mantel thrown over his shoulders, the Baptist maintains all his admonishing power in the force of his expression and his raised arm.

It is difficult to fit this sculpture into the period of Donatello's creative work in which, due to a date on the work, it undoubtedly belongs. It is a striking example of the wide range of styles that Donatello produced during the late 1430s, creating works with widely varying characteristics and employing nearly all kinds of sculptural techniques.