Can something be really ugly and really beautiful at the same time? Donatello's sculpture, the Feast of Herod, seems to say that the answer is "yes."
Feast of Herod pictures a gruesome event. It shows three scenes of the beheading of Saint John the Baptist, including the moment when the head of Saint John is presented to Herod on a silver platter. What could be uglier than that?
And yet, Feast of Herod is also a beautiful work of art. Completed in bronze relief, it was popular in its day and has also stood the test of time. Despite its violent content, art lovers see beauty in the arrangement of its subjects and in Donatello's use of perspective. They note the expressions that Donatello carved onto his subjects' faces.
Not all of his sculptures are of such troubling topics. He began his career under the mentorship of Lorenzo Ghiberti. Ghiberti himself spent most of his career working on one large commission, a series of many scenes on the doors of a church baptistery in Florence. Donatello also worked on the project which included one series of panels known as the Gates of Paradise.