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

Old Sacristy

1428-43
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San Lorenzo, Florence

From 1428 to about 1443 Donatello was at work on the sculptural decoration of the Old Sacristy of San Lorenzo, built by Brunelleschi between 1418 and 1428. This decoration, carried out with bronzes and polychrome stuccos (the first example of its kind in Florentine sculpture of the Quattrocento) comprises two arched reliefs above the bronze doors of the altar wall, one showing St Cosmas and St Damian, the other St Stephen and St Lawrence - both pairs in attitudes of concerned disputation - eight roundels in polychrome stucco with the four Evangelists and four episodes from the life of St John (St John on Patmos, the Resurrection of Drusiana, the Martyrdom and the Ascension of St John), and two bronze doors divided into ten compartments each with the Apostles and Martyrs. The colour decoration of the austerely architectural Sacristy pleased neither Brunelleschi nor his contemporaries, and once again, as at the time of the Crucifixion in Santa Croce, they were at a loss to understand Donatello's restless search for ever new forms of artistic expression.