Donatello: The Santa Cecilia Bas-Relief


Donatellos’ Sciattiato Relief of Contessina De Bardi portrayed as St Cecilia in the guise of Artemis.

Here is the original portrait carving. She is the sculptured equivalent of the Mona Lisa and even influenced Leonardo in his painting of St Anne and St Mary with the babies, Jesus Christ and St John the Baptist.

The prototype for this sculpture was the Greaco-Roman statue of Artemis, now in the Louvre. Artemis’ emblem was the crescent moon, and the shape, flexed so as to form a base about its inner arc, forms a diadem. The ‘headdress’ in its entirety, is based on the open palm of the human right hand. The slight overlap of the little finger gives rise to the tilt modelled into the diadem.

She wears a caul, a cloth cap covering her head, which is shaved well above low ear-level at back and caught into a tight ponytail, whose tresses and ribbons fell freely and aerially. This has given rise to the loincloth in Titian’s ‘Nole Me Tangere’and the Louvre’s ancient Greek Venus de Milo has a similar hairstyle.

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