This relief by the greatest sculptor of the Early Italian Renaissance is said to have been in the Palazzo Pazzi in Florence. In its generous composition, with pronounced contours, and in the pathos of the Madonna’s profile, which takes its inspiration from classical antiquity, it recalls the archaic monumentality of Gothic Madonnas of the Trecento. Composing strictly by the laws of linear perspective, and using the technique of the rilievo stiacciato (flattened relief) which he himself developed, Donatello effortlessly succeeds in reconciling two aspects that seem wholly at odds: the intimate and the monumental. In his innovative power of design, Donatello was one of the most uncompromising of artists, as the “Pazzi Madonna” shows, and as a rule put spiritual expression before formal beauty.


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