Art: Gold Beneath the Skin

For centuries Donatella's San Ludovico statue was regarded as one of his poorer works. According to the gossipy Renaissance critic, Vasari, somebody once asked the 15th Century sculptor why he had made the saint look so stupid and clumsy, to which Donatello replied that it was all on purpose—he thought Ludovico must have been a sorry fellow to pass up the kingdom of Naples to become a monk.*

Slowly a green crust spread over the maligned statue, darkening and coarsening it until people could hardly believe it was Donatello's at all. At last,...

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