Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Donatello's Great Pumpkin

Lest we think Renaissance art in Florence is all Fra Angelico angels and pretty boys, here's a figure by Donatello of a prophet, known for centuries by the nickname "Zuccone" or Great Pumpkin. I presume it's because of his large bald head. For reasons I can't fathom, some scholars identify him as Habakkuk. The original is now in the Museo del'Opera del Duomo next to the cathedral. He was one of a group of prophets carved by Donatello and others occupying niches high over the piazza on the campanile of the cathedral. During Lent, the city built a pulpit for Dominican and Franciscan preachers just under these prophets in front of the bell tower.

This figure has something of the ferocity and other-worldly zeal of those Lenten preachers. I've always found this figure to be stirring, and very frightening, even more so now that he's been restored.
Remember this is the same Donatello who made that nude pretty boy bronze David. That Donatello could make something like the David and this prophet, both with conviction, is a measure of his greatness. If it wasn't for Michelangelo, Donatello would get my vote for greatest of all Renaissance sculptors.

And here it is, full force expressionism centuries before anyone ever thought of that term.

Here is the Campanile next to the Cathedral with the row of prophets, including Zuccone, just under that modern netting. They are all replicas now.

Here is a replica of the Zuccone in its original place.


Anonymous said...

I recently saw (on EWTN, of all places) a short docu on Giotto, and the design and building of this tower (I don't think he lived to see its completion).

Somehow, there seems like a huge time gap between Giotto and Donatello, but I guess it wasn't really that long.

Counterlight said...

There's almost a century between Giotto and Donatello. Also, there is the Black Death and the conservative reaction that followed between them.