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“The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bernini”

Donatello, Reliquary Bust of San Rossore, ca. 1425, bronze, 22 x 23 7/8 x 14 5/8".

THE FIRST OBJECT one encounters when entering “The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini” is a hoax. Donatello’s Reliquary Bust of San Rossore from around 1425 displays a bearded man with a furrowed brow who humbly gazes at the floor, absorbed in what appear to be troubled thoughts. This rendition is so intimate and lifelike that we are easily convinced it is an accurate portrait not only of Rossore’s physical features but also of his personality. Yet Donatello did not depict the saint from life: Rossore was an early Christian martyr, whom he could not have known.

To open a presentation of Italian Renaissance portraiture with an invented likeness only seems paradoxical. As becomes evident in this exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, curated by Keith Christiansen and Stefan Weppelmann, the development of fifteenth-century portraiture was in fact greatly

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