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Donatello and the sculpture of the Renaissance in Prato

Donatello and his work were a major influence on Prato’s Renaissance sculpture. In 1428, together with Michelozzo, he was asked by the City to construct the external pulpit of the Cathedral, designed for the ostension of the Sacred Girdle.

The artist, who had already painted a brilliant piece of the new Museum’s collection, Madonna with Child, sculpted the pulpit with its celebrated unrestrained and joyful dance of the cherubs, described by Vasari as «un ballo di fanciulli [...] sì belli e sì mirabili» (a group of dancing children so beautiful and so enchanting). Donatello’s innovative and “capricious” pulpit profoundly influenced celebrated sculptors such as Maso di Bartolomeo, and the brilliant painters Paolo Uccello and Filippo Lippi, both of whom worked for the Cathedral.

Then, Mino da Fiesole and Antonio Rossellino sculpted the internal pulpit of the Cathedral, while Benedetto da Maiano, who had several estates in Prato, built his workshop here and made polished domestic worship tabernacles for the benefit of wealthy families living in Prato and Florence: some of these tabernacles are exhibited in the Pretorio Museum, while his awe-inspiring Madonna dell’Olivo is stored in the Cathedral. Finally, the Museum hosts a lunette with ornamental fruits by Andrea della Robbia using the new technique of glazed terracotta which had been invented by his uncle Luca Della Robbia. Other terracotta’s by Della Robbia may be seen in the Cathedral,in Santa Maria delle Carceri and in the churches of San Lodovico.