Giotto rescued and restored the art of painting—went the conventional art history of the sixteenth century—and Donatello brought back sculpture.
Donatello has always had great admirers. Look what the American sculptor Louis Slobodkin writes about him:
“Were I allowed to pick the sculptor who by his work showed the highest attainment and esthetic logic in all branches of sculpture, my choice (in spite of my great admiration for Michelangelo) would be Donatello. He worked in all mediums with equal success, tackled confidently a great assortment of sculptural problems and solved them beautifully….There is no sculptor in the whole sphere of western culture for the past 500 years who can give more rewarding study to the serious sculpture student.” Sculpture: Principles and Practice. Dover publications, 1949
Here is a famous statue by Donatello. Does it ring a bell? It is a St. John, not a Moses.
This is Michelangelo’s famous statue of Moses in San Pietro in Vincoli, Rome, sculpted a hundred years later.
Michelangelo had a great debt to ancient art. But he learned much from sculptors like Donatello who “tackled” the great problems without the aid of good models and a long tradition of art practice.
In Giorgio Vasari’s famous album of drawings by the masters, a learned critic wrote this in the margin beside one of Donatello’s drawings:
Aut Donatus Bonarrotum exprimit et refert, aut Bonarrotus Donatum.
“Either the spirit of Donatello moves Buonarroti, or that of Buonarroti moved Donatello.”