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

St George

c. 1416
Marble, height 214 cm
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

Around 1414, the Arte dei Corazzai (Guild of Armourers) ordered from Donatello a marble statue for Orsanmichele of their patron, St George, a knight in armour and thus an advertisement for their wares. This has always been one of Donatello's most admired statues.

The sculptor overcame a difficult problem, for the unyielding metal plates of armour did not permit him to express the potential movements of the limbs and body inside. Donatello could only use the pose to hint at them: St George is balanced expectantly on the balls of his feet. Otherwise Donatello could express emotion only in the face and the hands, protruding from the armour. In the clenched right-hand fist a hole indicates that the knight once held a weapon, probably a sword fashioned in gilt-metal, as it would have been impossible to carve it out of marble. 'In the head', Vasari wrote, 'there may be seen the beauty of youth, courage and valour in arms, and a proud and terrible ardour; and there is a marvellous suggestion of life bursting out of the stone.'

The artistic path taken by Donatello, which was in the end lead to the complete liberation of his statues from the surrounding niche structure, is already unmistakable in the St George. There is an equal emphasis on inner concentration and physical strength in the figure of this courageous knight.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.