(b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze)
Gilded pietra serena, 218 x 168 cm
Santa Croce, Florence
The Annunciation in Santa Croce is the first work to reflect Donatello's new tendencies following his stay in Rome.
"It was put near the altar of the Cavalcanti Chapel. For this he made an ornament in the grotesque style, with a base of varied and intertwined work, surmounted by a quartercircle, and with six putti; these garlanded putti have their arms round each other as if they are afraid of the height and are trying to steady themselves. Donatello's ingenuity and skill are specially apparent in the figure of the Virgin herself: frightened by the unexpected appearance of the angel she makes a modest reverence with a charming, timid movement, turning with exquisite grace towards him as he makes his salutation. The Virgin's movement and expression reveal both her humility and the gratitude appropriate to an unexpected gift, particularly a gift as great as this. Moreover, Donatello created a masterly flow of folds and curves in the draperies of the Madonna and angel, suggesting the form of the nude figures and showing how he was striving to recover the beauty of the ancients, which had been lost for so many years. He displayed such skill and facility that, in short, no one could have bettered his design, his jjudgment, his use of the chisel, or his execution of the work." (Vasari).
The setting is elaborately classical - though the composition recalls iconographical precedents of the 14th century - and is richly decorated with lavish gilding on stone. The composition conveys a strong impression of the episode of the Annunciation: of an unlooked for gift received with serene grace. Other works of this period are inspired by an entirely different spirit.