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The Nativity

Artist: Donatello
Created: 1460
Format: Painted terracotta
Location: Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Prato, Italy

The Nativity

“The world remained so full of Donatello's works that it may be said with confidence that no artist has ever produced more than he did." - Giorgio Vasari

Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi, more commonly known as Donatello, was renowned for his various sculpted artworks. Born in Florence, Italy, the majority of his treasured works were created there. He mastered pieces created in marble, bronze, wood, and even terracotta; such as ‘The Nativity’.  His sculptures were powerful and expressive, influencing many artists, including Michelangelo; and some consider him to have been the greatest sculptor of the early renaissance period.


Donatello’s ‘The Nativity’ is a beautiful terracotta piece that conveys the story of the birth of Christ. The Virgin Mary looks upon her blessed child with folded hands. Her facial expression seems to emanate a deep sadness; almost as though she knows what hardships will fall upon her newborn baby in the years to come. Her husband, Saint Joseph, lay behind them, seemingly exhausted from the ordeal they endured to reach this sacred moment. A horse and steer look on, perhaps comforted by the arrival of the saviour. The baby Jesus lays upon his unravelled swaddling, looking adoringly at his new mother, perhaps in hopes to comfort her troubled heart. All three characters are adorned with halos, signifying the sanctity of the historic religious event.

Donatello’s use of rich, bold colors in ‘The Nativity’ help to bring the expressive qualities of the artwork to life. The deep red of Mary’s dress draws attention to her, as though she is the center of the sculpture. The attention to detail, including the folds and rolls upon the characters clothing, offer an inspiring look at the talent that Donatello captivated viewers with for centuries.

‘The Nativity’ is located at the Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Prato, Italy.


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