Donato di Niccolo di Betto Bardi (better known by his nickname Donatello) was born in Florence in the year 1386. In 1403 he was apprenticed to the sculptor and metalsmith Lorenzo Ghiberti and the two of them made the bronze doors to the baptistery of Florence Cathedral.
Soon Donatello was receiving commissions of his own and he created a life size marble sculpture of David in 1408. He was still learning his craft and a difference can be seen between Donatello's later works (which are more emotional) and this, his first.
Donatello was commissioned to work for the powerful Medici family in the 1530s and he continued to take work from wealthy patrons for the rest of his career - in addition to commissions from the Church and the State.
One of his later works shows a gaunt and near to death Mary Magdalene, which may have illustrated Donatello's thoughts of his own mortality. He died of unknown causes on the 13th of December 1466 at the age of 80, and was buried in the Basilica of San Lorenzo, next to Cosimo de' Medici.
Donatello was the greatest sculptor before the coming of Michelangelo in the following century. He was without doubt the most influential of all the 15th century artists.