An Insightful Demonstration Recreates Donatello’s Marble Carving Technique

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To coincide with the first major U.K. exhibition of works by the Renaissance great Donatello, the Victoria and Albert Museum released the latest addition to its How was it made? series, which explores the process behind some of art history’s most lauded pieces. The short video follows sculptor Simon Smith as he creates a scaled-down iteration of the 15th-century Prato Pulpit, a relief featuring dancing cherubs made for the Cathedral of Prato.

Referring to marble as “the emperor of all stones,” Smith draws a portion of the original work on a small block and explains the unique characteristics of the material as he carves. “It’s all about trapping shadows,” he says. “Carving is all about having deep cuts here and lighter here and the angle here and how the light plays on it. And certainly in relief because relief carving like this. It’s kind of halfway between sculpture and drawing.” While demonstrating how Donatello might have approached his work, Smith offers a compelling glimpse into how two artists’ techniques overlap and converge centuries apart.

Donatello: Sculpting the Renaissance is on view through June 11 in London and includes Smith’s panel, which viewers are encouraged to touch. Find more about the demonstration on YouTube. (via Kottke)


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