David


David
1) (c. 1446-1460; Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello)
   Rendered by Donatello, this is the first freestanding nude figure to have been created since antiquity. David is shown as the shepherd boy who volunteered to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines by killing their leader, the giant Goliath. In his left hand he holds the stone he delivered with a sling to knock the man down and in his right is the sword he used to sever his head. The figure stands in an exaggerated contrapposto that gives him a marked sway, his left foot resting on the giant's severed head and his left arm akimbo. His hat, identified as that worn by shepherds, and military sandals, coupled by his soft, rather effeminate body, grant an erotic quality to the work. The wreath around the base of the statue symbolizes victory. The details of this commission are unclear, yet the sculpture was seen in the courtyard of the Palazzo Medici in 1469 during a wedding celebration, which would suggest that Donatello created the work for the Medici. Some art historians in fact believe that the statue may have once served as a fountain in the middle of their courtyard. In Florence, David became a symbol of the strength of the small city-state forced to face its more powerful enemies and was, therefore, the subject of a number of Renaissance sculptures and paintings.
2) (1501-1504; Florence, Accademia)
   Michelangelo received the commission to create a statue of David for one of the buttresses of the Cathedral of Florence below the dome. Since the work was intended to be viewed from below and at a distance, he rendered a colossal figure. When completed, it was so well received that the Florentines felt it should be given a more honorable placement. A group of artists, including Sandro Botticelli, Filippino Lippi, and Leonardo da Vinci, were appointed to decide where the statue should go. They chose the piazza in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Florentine seat of government, to stand as symbol of the new republic formed after the Medici's recent expulsion from the city (1494). In 1527, Medici supporters threw a bench at the statue, shattering one arm and a hand. Giorgio Vasari and Francesco Salviati, then teenagers, recovered the broken pieces so it could be restored. David was a favorite subject in Florence since his triumph against the giant Goliath could be translated to the city's triumph over its more powerful enemies. Yet, earlier renditions, namely by Donatello (c. 1446-1460) and Andrea del Verrocchio (1470s; both Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello), depicted the figure as a young shepherd boy. Michelangelo's instead is an adult rendered in the Greco-Roman tradition, his nudity a symbol of his heroism. While the earlier works stressed David's victory, Michelangelo instead rendered the moment before the confrontation with the giant, capturing the figure's sense of anticipation. With sling over his shoulder and stone in his right hand, David tenses his muscles, furrows his brow, and gazes intensely at his target. The inspiration was Donatello's St. George at Orsanmichele, Florence (1415-1417), who also readies for confrontation. Michelangelo's rendition would influence Gian Lorenzo Bernini, whose David in the Palazzo Borghese, Rome (1623-1624), takes the idea one step further by showing the figure pulling the sling to hit his target.

Historical dictionary of Renaissance art. . 2008.

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