susan settlemyre williams

I chose to write about works by Donatello because, for me, the immediacy and psychological insight of his work is almost shocking. These qualities are especially evident in his very disturbing "Mary Magdalene", which is life-sized and carved from wood; although the paint has nearly disappeared, the warmth of the wood makes Mary seem alive. The impression is heightened by the way it’s displayed in the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence: The statue sits on a very low pedestal in the middle of the floor. You turn from looking at some other work, meet her eyes, and momentarily think you’ve been approached by a street person.

I have very little information on the medallion of “The Creation of Eve,” which I saw in a museum in Milan. I have been unable to locate a photograph of it anywhere, but I believe it was unsuccessfully entered into a competition for the Baptisery Doors of the cathedral in Florence. That competition was won by Lorenzo Ghiberti, who has a similar representation of Eve’s creation, although I find it less compelling. (Nevertheless, here’s a link to it) Donatello’s Eve seems far more overwhelmed and credibly weak-kneed at what has just happened. She really is stepping into a new world.