Donatello in Perspective: The Chellini Madonna
Michael Greenhalgh describes how a masterpiece of fifteenth-century Italian art was for a long time used as an ashtray, only to pass into the national collections.
‘Either the spirit of Donatello moves Buonarroti,
Or that of Buonarroti first moved Donatello’
This epigram, retailed by Vasari, takes us to a main reason for Donatello’s fame - at least in the eyes of the High Renaissance. Critics quite correctly recognised that Michelangelo derived much inspiration from the work of Donatello. They also believed that, in true Renaissance fashion, he had then improved on his source. Today, everyone could name some of Michelangelo’s sculptures and paintings, and some of Raphael’s work also; Donatello’s achievement remains more in the shade.