Donatello was born in 1386 (most likely) in Florence. His father, a restless man with a tumultuous life, was a member of the Wool Combers’ Guild. His initial training was as a goldsmith, where he apprenticed with Lorenzo Ghiberti, goldsmith and sculptor.
Donatello’s earliest works were developed in the context of the two most important projects in the city at the time – both the Cathedral and Orsanmichele (a granary turned church) were being decorated with numerous sculptures. These works can be found at the Orsanmichele museum (upstairs), the Bargello Museum, and the Opera del Duomo museum (see below).
By the 1430s and 40s, Donatello was established as the leading sculptor of the day, and carried out important commissions for the Medici family. Such was their appreciation of him that when Donatello died in Florence in 1466, he was buried in the Basilica of San Lorenzo next to Cosimo de' Medici the Elder. Andrea della Robbia was among the coffin-bearers.