Donatello, ‘The Pazzi Madonna’, Daniel Katz Gallery

Reliefs of this kind were created for private devotion in the Renaissance. Pioneered by Lorenzo Ghiberti in the early years of the 15th century, and developed further by his apprentice Donatello, the latter made throughout his career reliefs of the Madonna and Child in marble, terracotta and bronze.

The present composition, known as the Pazzi Madonna, dating from the 1420s, is the earliest of these and one of Donatello’s greatest inventions. The original marble relief, now in the Berlin Museum, had been in the Palazzo Pizzi in Florence until the 1870s, hence its name.

This relief, with the figures in close profile, captures a sense of tenderness and intimacy uniting Mother and Child. The sacred gravity of this composition, devoid of any sweetness and lifting the figures out of the ordinary, would be hugely influential to his contemporary the painter Massaccio and later in the early work of Michelangelo.

The paint and gilding that adorns this sculpture is original, along with the architectural tabernacle frame.

American Art Association, New York, the Davanzati Palace Sale, 21 November 1916, lot 706

William Boyce Thompson, Yonkers, New York

With Daniel Katz, London

Private collection, UK

About Donatello

In the work of the early Renaissance sculptor Donatello (born Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi) life seems to burst out of the metal and stone. His greatest masterpieces include the vigilant marble Saint George (ca. 1417) in the Orsanmichele msueum, Florence; the graceful figure of young David (ca. 1440); and the impressive bronze equestrian statue of Gattamelata (erected 1453) that harked back to ancient Roman art. Donatello’s use of sinuous forms, which encourages the eye to move around the figure, influenced generations of Italian sculptors, mostly notably Michelangelo, well into the 16th century.

Italian, 1386/1387 - 1466, Florence, Italy, based in Florence, Italy