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Donatello, Michelangelo, Cellini: Sculptor's Drawings from Renaissance Italy

Donatello, Michelangelo, Cellini: Sculptor's Drawings from Renaissance Italy


The self-portrait of Baccio Bandinelli shows the sculptor pointing to an object that he has placed on a kind of pedestal. Among the most remarkable aspects of this object is that it is not a sculpture but a design in red chalk, a medium that few other Renaissance sculptors used. Bandinelli was particularly proud of his skills as a draughtsman, and he produced hundreds of drawings, many of them as striking and unusual as the one his portrait depicts. His talent and productivity set him apart from other sculptors of his day, most of whom left little evidence of having worked extensively on paper.


This publication, which accompanies an important exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, puts Bandinelli's portrait in context by looking broadly at the practice of drawing by Renaissance sculptors, including such luminaries as Donatello, Verrocchio, Michelangelo, Cellini and Giambologna. The book surveys two centuries of material, considering rough sketches and more finished sheets, isolated studies and sequences of ideas. Comparing designs on paper to related three-dimensional works by the same artists, the book directly confronts the question of the importance drawing held for sculptors in the period. The authors, who include specialists in the history of sculpture and drawing, among other fields, pose new questions about the creative process and the relation between the arts in Renaissance Italy.


A focus of the book will be Bandinelli’s own drawings and the development of his practice across his career and his experimentation with different media. The broader question considered, however, is when, how and why sculptors drew. Every Renaissance sculptor who set out to make a work in metal or stone would first have made a series of preparatory models in wax, clay and/or stucco. Drawing was not an essential practice for sculptors in the way it was for painters, and indeed, most surviving sculptors’ drawings are not preparatory studies for works they subsequently executed in three dimensions. When sculptors did draw, it often indicated something about the artist’s training or about his ambitions. Among the most accomplished draftsmen were artists like Pollaiuolo, Verrocchio and Cellini, who had come to sculpture by way of goldsmithery, a profession that required proficiency in ornamental design. Artists who sought to become architects, meanwhile – the likes of Michelangelo, Giambologna and Ammanati – similarly needed to learn to draw, since architects had to provide plans, elevations and other drawings to assistants and clients and had to imagine the place of individual figures within a larger multi-media ensemble. Certain kinds of projects, moreover – fountains and tombs, for example – required drawings to a degree that others did not. Sections on the Renaissance goldsmith-sculptor and sculptor-architect will allow comparison of the place drawing had in various artists’ careers.

  • Michael C. Cole et al.

    Paperback, 280 x 240 mm

    256 pages, 100 colour illustrations
    ISBN: 978 1 907372 70 4

  • Contributors

    Michael C. Cole, Oliver Tostmann, Davide Gasparotto, Alina Payne and Linda Wolk-Simon

  • Exhibition

    Accompanies an exhibition at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Botson 
    23 October 2014 – 23 January 2015

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