(b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze)
Door of the Martyrs1440-43
Bronze, 235 x 109 cm
Old Sacristy, San Lorenzo, Florence
The culminating point of the conception of decorating the Old Sacristy was reached in the last work Donatello executed for the sacristy, the two bronze doors, whose motivating inspiration is so different from that of Ghiberti, then working on his second Baptistery door, the Door of Paradise. Forty Apostles and Doctors of the Church are spread over the twenty panels. They meet, they engage in discussion, and in the heat of their arguments they appear to detain and pursue one another. Every scene is animated by an acute dynamic tension, and for the first time in the Renaissance, space is shown as infinite. In this way, Donatello laid the foundations of modern impressionistic sculpture, but he also broke dramatically with the aesthetic canons of Brunelleschi, so that to the great architect and the intellectual milieu of which he was the leader, such works seemed little less than a provocation.
The recent restoration of 1984-86 has revealed the close relationship between decoration and architecture, both of which were incorporated in the original plan.