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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Donatello's Saint Mark is a statue made of marble which stands to an approximate height of seven feet and nine inches, and it displayed in the Orsanmichele church museum in the city of Florence.

The statue was initially positioned in a tabernacle in the exterior wall of the church. Lately, the Saint Mark statue was relocated from its original position and placed in a museum for restoration. The Saint Mark statue was made in a solidity manner which reflects the standard rules.

The right leg provides support for the total weight of the statue with the left knee bending slightly to maintain the balance of the Saint Mark statue. The mantle not supported by the arm stretches to the floor in heavy folds.

The St. Mark statue was portrayed with full beards and a traditional robe draped around it. Prominent veins appear on Saint Mark’s hand as it clutches a text. The posture of the statue holding the Gospel book with his right grasping his side portrays like St. Mark is receiving a divine inspiration in order to write Gospel. The purpose of creating the statue was to act as a decoration for the guild’s niche in Orsanmichele which was a corn exchange and a meeting place in the city of Florence.

Contrapposto stance was employed in the making of the Saint Mark statue since it was a technique that had been in use by many great ancient Roman and Greek sculptors. Donatello used this technique on Saint Mark statue to give it a more natural look.

Apart from the use of contrapposto technique, Donatello employed an additional ingenious feature on the St. Mark statue so that it could be viewed differently from below. The niche in Orsanmichele where the statue was initially positioned was along the street, a bit higher than the eye-level.

The head and hands and torso of the St. Mark statue were made oversized a little bit to compensate for the angle in which individuals viewed it. The technique used in the making of this statue put into account the angle of viewing of the statue; hence it is an approach which other sculptors may get interested in using in the renaissance.

The guild of Saint Mark statue was made from the linen guild, and this made the artist emphasise the figure of the garment. It is possible to see the cloth covering the body of the statue falling over it the same way cloth will fall over the actual body of a human being.

Donatello used this technique of modelling the shape of the Saint Mark statue with garments in a different way from how it was being done during the Middle Ages when sculptors will tend to portray a body hidden inside garments. The statue as well was made to stand on top of a pillow which symbolises how holy the statue is. Apart from it symbolising holiness, the pillow also emphasises on the weight of the statue, which portrays it as a real person since the physical world around it reacts to its body.

During the early Renaissance, Saint Mark statue which took two years to for completion was presumed as the near-perfect embodiment of the artistic standards. When the statue was completed and unveiled to the guild, the guild’s members were neither happy nor impressed with the statue.

The members thought the statue was aesthetically unpleasing due to its lack of proportionality and they insisted that some adjustments should be made to the statue. The guild members wanted the statue to be appropriately situated in its niche. After a series of changes, the statue was perfectly placed in its niche and unveiled.

The members of the guild upon seeing the newly revealed statue were amazed at the adjustments made on the statue, and they declared it perfect. Through this, the St. Mark statue reflected the change in artistic tastes which was gradually but certainly making its way for the uniqueness and practicality of the Renaissance.

In the making of the Saint Mark statue, viewers’ perceptions were put into consideration to ensure that a perfect statue is erected. Donatello brought in the uniqueness of the St. Mark statue by use of marble thus making it a distinct statue ever created with the ability to overwhelm viewers with its power and expressiveness.

It goes down the history that, Saint Mark statue is the first statue to be made and covered with a garment which echo’s its body form. It has proven the end of the International Gothic style which was being used in the middle ages and has helped to introduce a new era of artistic styles of progressively more original figures cast and carved in life size.