(b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze)
Miracle of the Ass1447-50
Bronze, 57 x 123 cm
Basilica di Sant'Antonio, Padua
The group called the Altare del Santo composed altogether of twenty-nine pieces of sculpture. Among them, four bas-reliefs in bronze with the miracles of St Anthony (Miracle of the Ass, Miracle of the New-born Child, Miracle of the Repentant Son, Miracle of the Avaricious Man's Heart).
In the Miracles series Donatello adopted flattened relief on a roughened surface which served to break up the light and diffuse it, thus achieving a luminous atmosphere in which the incorporeal images appear to float. Never until now had architecture played such a prominent part in narrative relief scenes. In the Miracles it is the rhythm of the architecture that unites the jostling crowd and is felt to be the chief protagonist.
In the Miracle of the Ass, an ass, which had previously stubbornly refused its food, sinks to its knees in front of a host which Anthony holds out to it. Those around observe the miracle of the ass with the greatest amazement.