Artibus et Historiae no. 14 (VII)

1986, ISSN 0391-9064

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SARAH BLAKE WILK - Donatello's Dovizia as an Image of Florentine Political Propaganda

Donatello's Dovizia, a colossal personification of Abundance that once stood atop a column in the Mercato Vecchio, Florence, was commissioned by the city ca. 1428-30. The sculpture seems to have been the first Renaissance monument that truly integrated classical form and content. its imagery depended on the symbol for the Roman state charity, the Alimenta, instituted by Trajan and well known in the Renaissance through literary accounts, Trajan's public monuments, and coins. Like its prototype, the Dovizia symbolized that the state's wealth funded its charity toward the citizenry. The fact that Trajan's soul had been saved by Gregory the Great because of virtuous acts such as the foundation of this charity seems to have made the Alimenta imagery an acceptable model for the Christian figure of Charity. It was first used by Nicola Pisano (Baptistery Pulpit, Pisa, 1260) and continued to be a formative influence on later Italian versions of the theme.

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