Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Plaster cast - The Miracle of the Ass of Rimini
  • The Miracle of the Ass of Rimini
    Donatello, born 1386 - died 1466
  • Enlarge image

The Miracle of the Ass of Rimini

  • Object:

    Plaster cast

  • Place of origin:

    Padua (original, sculpted)
    Venice (city) (cast)

  • Date:

    1446-1448 (sculpted)
    ca. 1884 (cast)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Donatello, born 1386 - died 1466 (sculptor)
    Tombola Signor (cast-maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plaster cast, painted plaster

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1884-326

  • Gallery location:

    Cast Courts, Room 46b, The Weston Cast Court , case FS, shelf N

This is a plaster cast after a gilt bronze original by Donatello (1446- 48) of the 'The Miracle of the ass of Rimini' in the Basilica di Sant'Antonio, made in Florence; The cast made by Signor Tombola, Venice in about 1884.

On 23 June, 1447, Donatello contracted for four reliefs depicting Miracles performed by St Anthony of Padua. At this stage three of the reliefs, including the Miracle of the Ass of Rimini, had already been cast. In this legend, St Anthony proves the real presence of the Eucharist to a heretic who has refused to believe in it unless the ass should leave its stable and kneel before the Eucharist. The ass is shown here kneeling, adoring the Sacrament, disregarding the food that is offered to it.

On 13 April 1446, a donation of 15, 000 lire was accepted from a Paduan citizen, Francesco da Tergola, for the construction of the high altar of the Santo. The first payment to Donatello for the new altar occurs in February 1447. Although the altar was temporarily erected for the feast of St Anthony (June 13) 1448, and most of the major figures were cast by 1450, the project was still unfinished when Donatello left Padua in 1454.

The altar originally stood at the end of the choir, close to the ambulatory, but was dismembered in 1579, when officials of the Arca decided to replace it with a larger structure, designed by Girolamo Campagna and Cesare Fianco. Although most of Donatello's sculptures were incorporated into the new altar by 1582, it was not until 1895 that all the surviving components were united in the present fanciful reconstruction by Camillo Boito. The original form of the altar remains controversial, due to the loss of almost all the original architectural elements, except for a pair of volutes.

Plaster casts were especially sought after during the 19th century, when reproductions of great works of sculpture and architecture were thought crucial for the training of artists. A separating substance was applied to the surface of the work to be reproduced, and a plaster mould made from that. The mould would then be used to make any number of additional plaster copies. These were often sold to artists, and later in the century to art colleges for study purposes.

Place of Origin

Padua (original, sculpted)
Venice (city) (cast)

Date

1446-1448 (sculpted)
ca. 1884 (cast)

Artist/maker

Donatello, born 1386 - died 1466 (sculptor)
Tombola Signor (cast-maker)

Materials and Techniques

Plaster cast, painted plaster

Dimensions

Height: 61.5 cm, Width: 122 cm

Object history note

Purchased from Signor Tombola in 1884 for £1 7s 6d.

Historical context note

On 23 June, 1447, Donatello contracted for four reliefs depicting Miracles performed by St Anthony of Padua. At this stage three of the reliefs, including the Miracle of the Ass of Rimini, had already been cast. In this legend, St Anthony proves the real presence of the Eucharist to a heretic who has refused to believe in it unless the ass should leave its stable and kneel before the Eucharist. The ass is shown here kneeling, adoring the Sacrament, disregarding the food that is offered to it.

On 13 April 1446, a donation of 15,000 lire was accepted from a Paduan citizen, Francesco da Tergola, for the construction of the high altar of the Santo. The first payment to Donatello for the new altar occurs in February 1447. Although the altar was temporarily erected for the feast of St Anthony (June 13) 1448, and most of the major figures were cast by 1450, the project was still unfinished when Donatello left Padua in 1454.

The altar originally stood at the end of the choir, close to the ambulatory, but was dismembered in 1579, when officials of the Arca decided to replace it with a larger structure, designed by Girolamo Campagna and Cesare Fianco. Although most of Donatello's sculptures were incorporated into the new altar by 1582, it was not until 1895 that all the surviving components were united in the present fanciful reconstruction by Camillo Boito. The original form of the altar remains controversial, due to the loss of almost all the original architectural elements, except for a pair of volutes (item 8 below).

The surviving components of the original altar are:
Preserved on the altar in the Basilica di Sant'Antonio:
1.Seven bronze figures in the round, comprising, the Virgin and Child enthroned, St Francis (V&A cast no. 1899-56), St Anthony of Padua, St Louis of Toulouse, St Daniel, St Justina, St Prosdocimus.
2.Four bronze reliefs depicting miracles performed by St Anthony of Padua (V&A cast nos. 1884-325 to 328).
3.Four bronze reliefs containing Symbols of the Evangelists.
4.Twelve bronze reliefs of angels (V&A cast nos. 1870-18 and 18 a-k).
5.A bronze relief of the Dead Christ Lamented by Two Angels (V&A cast no. 1884-329).
6.A limestone relief depicting the Entombment.
7.A bronze relief of the Dead Christ with seven angels, by an unidentified Venetian sculptor (V&A cast no 1884-330).

In the Museo Antoniano, Padua:-
8.A pair of volutes, thought to have come from the canopy which once surmounted the altar.

In the Museo Salvatore, Romano, Florence:-
9.Marble reliefs depicting the half-length figures of St Prosdocimus and another saint, possibly two of the four half-length saints seen by Marcantonio Michiel on the back of the altar, in the early 16th century.

Descriptive line

Plaster cast, painted plaster, after the bronze, partly gilded original relief of 'The Miracle of the Ass of Rimini', from the high altar of the Basilica of St Anthony of Padua, Padua, by Donatello in Padua, 1446-8. Cast by Signor Tombola in Venice, in about 1884.

Labels and date

These casts show reliefs that Donatello made for the basilica in Padua. They illustrate miracles performed by St Anthony, the city's patron saint. In one relief, the saint restores a man's severed limb. In another he wills an ass to kneel. Another relief shows the saint causing a baby to speak and name its father, saving its mother who has been accused of adultery. [2014]

Production Note

Plaster cast copy after fifteenth century original (1446-48)

Materials

Plaster

Techniques

Casting

Subjects depicted

Miracle

Categories

Sculpture; Christianity; Religion; Plaster Cast

Collection

Sculpture Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.