Review Round Up: Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance, Victoria and Albert Museum

Discover what is being said about the Victoria and Albert Museum’s new exhibition exploring the talents of the famous sculptor.

(c)Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Guardian: ***** “Everywhere you look, Donatello breaks rules to suggest fleeting, delicate, often dangerous emotions. In one of the most sublime sculptures here, he pushes at the edge of visibility itself. The Ascension depicts the disciples witnessing Christ’s elevation to heaven but the imagery of this white marble relief seems to melt into a cloud of unknowing, so soft is the carving: as you look at it you actually seem to pass from the physical realm to another reality.”

Evening Standard: ***** “There can be few subjects so well suited to the V&A, which has the largest collection of Italian Renaissance statuary outside Italy. Cultural appropriation? Yep, that was the whole idea. The exhibition has a particular eye to the making of Donatello’s works – design and craft is the V&A’s business. And there’s interesting documentation on his sharing of a workshop and its profits.”

The Observer: “Donatello made some of the strangest sculptures in art. Among the exhibits at the V&A will be his outlandish hybrids of ancient and modern. St John the Baptist is the wildest fusion of classical Roman statue and haloed boy saint, draped in a soft, tufted fleece. Nobody really knows what the artist’s weird cherub in leather chaps (arriving from Florence) is supposed to be, or to mean. But his tiny Spiritello (from Berlin), fairly bursting with mirth as he shakes his tambourine, has more joy in its single up-curled toe than many a grander bronze.”

iNews: ***** “Sculpting the Renaissance at the V&A is a scholarly but accessible corrective, which includes 50 works never before seen in the UK, which come together with more familiar examples from the V&A’s own collection.”

Culture Whisper: **** “Given his changing styles and the fact he inspired so many other sculptors, it does result in an exhibition where only around one third of the works on show are attributed to Donatello himself – with others by peers, followers and unknown sculptors from his time. ‘Donatello and his circle’ would have been a more accurate title for this exhibition, though thankfully that doesn’t detract from the quality of the sculpture on show with visually striking works of St. George slaying a dragon by Domenico di Paris and of St. Maurelius by Niccolo Baroncelli, flanking Donatello’s Christ.” “Donatello has been far outlived by his legacy, as this exhibition proves, with countless followers drawing upon his ideas for their own designs. Classicism, certainly, will never go out of fashion: just look at the John Soane Museum, zeitgeisty interiors guru Luke Edward Hall (and his classical David-esque portraits) or the Grecian cherub planters on sale at Anthropologie. Carpe Diem, Ad Astra – thank you Donatello, long may we defer. This show is unmissable.”

The Telegraph: **** “Full of eye-catching loans, this first-rate show is a reminder that Donatello was a sculptor so brilliant he could paint in marble.”

Time Out: *** “But this is actually a show about Donatello and his followers, his studio and collaborators. About how he inspired Baroncelli and Schiavone, how he shaped the world with his art. It’s filled with copies of his work and paintings influenced by his composition. There’s even a whole room of nineteenth-century homages to him. Which is nice and all, but it’s not why you come to a Donatello show. This is an exhibition about him, rather than of him.”

London Visitors: “Through exceptional loans, the exhibition offers visitors a unique vision of Donatello’s genius, focusing primarily on Donatello’s lifetime and immediate followers, the exhibition combines a thematic approach with chronology, considering the inter-relationship between sculpture, paintings, drawings and goldsmiths’ work.”

Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance is on display at the V&A until the 11th June.

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