(b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze)
Judith and Holofernes1455-60
Bronze, height 236 cm (without base)
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence
The difficult bronze sculpture of Judith and Holofernes was made by Donatello for the Signoria of Florence "... a casting in metal, showing Judith cutting off the head of Holofernes, which was placed in the piazza under one of the arches of their loggia. This is an excellent and accomplished work in which, by the appearance of Judith and the simplicity of her garments, Donatello reveals to the onlooker the woman s hidden courage and the inner strength she derives from God. Similarly, one can see the effect of wine and sleep in the expression of Holofernes and the presence of death in his limbs which, as his soul has departed, are cold and limp. Donatello worked so well that the casting emerged very delicate and beautiful, and then he finished it so carefully that it is a marvel to see. The base, which is a simply designed granite baluster, is also pleasing to the eye and very graceful. Donatello was so satisfied with the results that he decided, for the first time, to put his name on one of his works; and it is seen in these words: DONATELLI OPUS" (Vasari).
Donatello was commissioned to do the sculpture by Cosimo de' Medici between 1455 and 1460 as the decoration for a fountain in the garden of Palazzo Medici-Riccardi. In 1495 it was placed at the side of the main door of Palazzo della Signoria as the symbol of the liberty of the Florentine people; from here it was moved to the first courtyard, subsequently transferred to the Loggia dei Lanzi, and in 1919 again placed on the raised platform in front of Palazzo della Signoria. In 1980 it was removed for restoration and replaced by a bronze copy (1988). Designed to stand freely in space and to appear alive from every possible point of vision, it precedes the figure of St John the Baptist of Siena Cathedral.