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Born in Florence, Italy, around 1386, sculptor Donatello apprenticed early with well-known sculptors and quickly learned the Gothic style. Before he was 20, he was receiving commissions for his work. Over his career he developed a style of lifelike, highly emotional sculptures and a reputation second only to Michelangelo’s. By 1408, Donatello was back in Florence at the workshops of the cathedral. That year, he completed the life-sized marble sculpture, David. The figure follows a Gothic style, popular at the time, with long graceful lines and an expressionless face. The work reflects the influences of sculptors of the time. The sculpture was set up in the Palazzo Vecchio as an inspiring symbol of defiance of authority to Florentines, who were engaged in a struggle with the king of Naples at the time. In 1430, the eminent art patron commissioned Donatello to do another statue of David, this time in bronze. This is probably Donatello’s most famous work. The sculpture is fully independent from any architectural surroundings that might support it. Standing a little over five feet tall, David represents an allegory of civic virtue triumphing over brutality and irrationality. His lifelong friendship with the Medici family earned him a retirement allowance to live on the rest of his life. He died of unknown causes on December 13, 1466, in Florence and was buried in the Basilica of San Lorenzo, next to Cosimo de’ Medici. An unfinished work was faithfully completed by his student Bertoldo di Giovanni.
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