The Ascension with Christ giving the Keys to St Peter thumbnail 1
The Ascension with Christ giving the Keys to St Peter thumbnail 2
+33
images
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 64a, The Robert H. Smith Gallery

The Ascension with Christ giving the Keys to St Peter

Relief
ca. 1428-1430 (carved)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This relief is one of the finest surviving examples of Donatello's work in rilievo schiacciato, literally 'squashed relief', a technique which he developed. It is recorded in the Palazzo Medici in an inventory made after the death of Lorenzo de' Medici il Magnifico in 1492, and in the Palazzo Salviati in Florence in 1591. The circumstances of the commission are not known, but it has been suggested that it may have been carved for niche designed to house a figure of St Peter on the exterior of the church of Orsanmichele in Florence. The niche housing a St George by Donatello has a similar low relief scene below it.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Carved marble in very low relief
Brief Description
The Ascension with Christ giving the Keys to St Peter, marble carved in low relief, Donatello, Italy (Florence), ca. 1428-30
Physical Description
The Ascension with Christ giving the Keys to Saint Peter, marble carved in low relief, with numerous figures, representing Jesus Christ delivering the Keys to Saint Peter. In the centre of the upper part of the relief is the seated figure of Christ, with head bent in right profile and right hand raised in benediction, presenting the keys with his left hand to St Peter, who stands beneath him on the right. In the clouds to right and left of Christ are four angels. Below and to the left of Christ is the kneeling figure of the Virgin in right profile with her right hand outstretched. Behind St Peter stand five apostles, grouped roughly in a semi-circle, and behind the Virgin are five further apostles ranged in a descending line. To their left, in the left lower corner of the relief are two standing angels. The scene is set in a hilly landscape.



The relief is slightly chipped along the lower edge.
Dimensions
  • Height: 40.9cm
  • Width: 114.1cm
  • Weight: 60.5kg
Measured for the Medieval and Renaissance Galleries
Gallery Label
Donatello devised a way of carving in shallow relief called rilievo schiacciato or ‘squashed relief’. The biographer Vasari admired Donatello’s great skill in this difficult technique. This sculpture is arguably the finest example of rilievo schiacciato. It combines two scenes that occurred separately in the Gospels but were sometimes performed together in mystery plays. The original location of the work is unknown but it was recorded in the Palazzo Medici in 1492.(2009)
Object history
The relief is one of the finest surviving examples of Donatello's work in rilievo schiacciato, literally 'squashed relief', a technique which he developed. It is recorded in the Palazzo Medici in an inventory made after the death of Lorenzo de' Medici il Magnifico in 1492, and in the Palazzo Salviati in Florence in 1591. The circumstances of the commission are not known, but several theories have been put forward. The suggestions that it may have been carved for the altar of the Brancacci Chapel in the Carmini in Florence, the painted decoration of which omits this important scene, is now largely rejected. It was, however, appealing, as the two scenes - which are not combined in the gospels - formed part of a mystery play performed in the church. The proposal that it was intended to form part of the base of the niche on the church of Orsanmichele, designed to house the figure of St Peter, in a similar arrangement to that of the St George by Donatello, has met with more favour. The wooden frame probably dates from the nineteenth century but is possibly made from reused carved wood sections.
Subjects depicted
Place Depicted
Summary
This relief is one of the finest surviving examples of Donatello's work in rilievo schiacciato, literally 'squashed relief', a technique which he developed. It is recorded in the Palazzo Medici in an inventory made after the death of Lorenzo de' Medici il Magnifico in 1492, and in the Palazzo Salviati in Florence in 1591. The circumstances of the commission are not known, but it has been suggested that it may have been carved for niche designed to house a figure of St Peter on the exterior of the church of Orsanmichele in Florence. The niche housing a St George by Donatello has a similar low relief scene below it.
Bibliographic References
  • Triqueti, Henry de. "Les Sculptures du Museé de South Kensington", in: La Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 83 livraison, t. XIV, 1er mai 1863, p. 463 (repr.)
  • Inventory of Art Objects Acquired in the Year 1861 In: Inventory of the Objects in the Art Division of the Museum at South Kensington, Arranged According to the Dates of their Acquisition. Vol I. London: Printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1868, p.
  • Maclagan, Eric and Longhurst, Margaret H. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture. Text. London: Victoria and Albert Museum, 1932, pp. 19, 20
  • Avery, Charles. Donatello. Catalogo Completo delle Opere. Florence, 1991, pp. 56-57, cat.no.36
  • Greenhalgh, Michael. Donatello and his Sources. London, 1982
  • Levine Dunkelman, Martha. 'A new look at Donatello's Saint Peter's Tabernacle'. In: Gazette des Beaux Arts. CXVII, 1991, pp 1-16
  • Pope-Hennessy, John. Donatello. Berlin 1986, pp. 14-15, 94, 99
  • Rosenauer. Artur. Donatello. Milan 1993, pp. 84-87, no 19, p. 104, p. 184
  • Schultz Markham, Anne. The Sculpture of Bernardo Rossellino and his Workshop. Princeton 1977, p. 29
  • Jolly, Anna. Madonnas by Donatello and his Circle. Phd Thesis, Cambridge 1992, pp. 20, 21
  • Seymour Jr., Charles Sculpture in Italy 1400-1500 Pelican History of Art, Harmondsworth 1966. pp. 86, 234, n.20, pl. 323
  • Poeschke, J. Die Skulptur der Renaissance in Italien, Band I. Donatello und seine Zeit, Munich, 1990, pp. 100-101, pl 71
  • Avery, Charles. Florentine Renaissance Sculpture. New York, 1970. p. 48, pl. 29
  • Pope-Hennessy, John. Donatello: Sculptor. New York, 1993, pp. 123-5, ill. pp. 126-8, 129, 132, 244, 254, 285, 316, 332, 333n
  • Avery, Charles. Donatello, an Introduction. New York 1994, pp. 36-39
  • Raggio, Olga. Catalogue of Italian Sculpture in the Victoria and Albert Museum. Art Bulletin. Vol. L, 1968, p. 100
  • Avery, Charles. 'Donatello's marble narrative reliefs'. In: Le vie del marmot. Aspetti della prduzione e della diffusione dei manufatti marmorei tra Quattrocento e Cinquecento, Centro culturale L. Russo, 3rd October 1992, pp. 8, 10, note 6, illus 1.
  • Motture, Peta in Williamson, Paul (ed), European Sculpture at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 1996, pp. 76-77
  • Bennett, Bonnie A. and Wilkins G. David. Donatello. Oxford, 1984, pp. 136-140, notes 2-5, fig 76
  • Carl, Doris. Benedetto da Maiano. A Florentine Sculptor at the Threshold of the High Renaissance. Regensburg, 2006, pp. 59, 76, fig. 27
  • Bormand, Marc; Paolozzi Strozzi, Beatrice; Penny, Nicolas. Desiderio da Settignano. Sculptor of Renaissance Florence. Exhibiton Catalogue, Musée du Louvre, Paris; Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence; National Art Gallery, Washington, 2007, pp. 176, 177
  • Lillie, Amanda, 'Sculpting the Air: Donatello's Narratives of the Environment' in Donal Cooper and Marika Leino (eds), Depth of Field: Relief Sculpture in Renaissance Italy, Bern: Peter Lang, 2007, pp. 97-124
  • Motture, Peta in Donal Cooper and Marika Leino (eds), Depth of Field: Relief Sculpture in Renaissance Italy, Bern: Peter Lang, 2007, pp. 157-158
  • Motture, P., Jones, E. and Zikos, D., ed. by, Carvings, Casts and Collectors: The Art of Renaissance Sculpture, London, 2013p. 27
  • Curtis, Penelope, Depth of Field: the place of relief in the time of Donatello, Leeds: Henry Moore Institute, 2004
Collection
Accession Number
7629-1861

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdFebruary 18, 2004
Record URL