From 1430 to 1623A.D., four sculptures of the Biblical David were created. From the master artists Bernini, Donatello, Michelangelo, and Verrocchio came the most famous David’s of the world. Even though infinitely many were made, these surpass the others to become marvels that will live forever.
The earliest of the David’s, is the work of Donatelloc.1430. This magnificent work is a life-size, nude, bronze, figure of David. The sculpture is portraying the scene after David has cut off the head of Goliath. His foot is raised on the severed head in a stance of contropposto. His sword is in the right hand with the stone in the left. This very smooth and natural looking sculpture was originally part of Medici courtyard and is the only David of the four created for a private collection. There are a few symbolic ingredients to this David.
The style of the figure refers to antiquity for the balance and composition of the nude. Energy in the sculpture animates the emotions and is a new technique used in this David, once again showing qualities from antiquity. This energy is not used in the other figures.
In addition, Donatello’s David is said to host homosexual overtones, in the feministic appearance of the body and the stance. Overall, this version of the biblical hero is elegantly designed and the originality is fascinating. Verrocchio’s David c.1473-75A.D. greatly differs from those of the other artists’. This statue was commissioned by the Medici family, like that of Donatello’s. However, it was created for public display. It was in the Palazzo Vecchio, where it gained almost a republican or city-related meaning similar to the reputation that the David of Donatello gained, after it was also moved to the same site. The similarity stops here. The proudness shows that the hero was well capable of slaying the giant where Donatello’s shows almost no emotion. The explicitness of the emotion contrasts greatly with the sensualness of Donatello’s. Verrocchio’s is fully clothed in elegant armor when Michelangelo’s and as well as Donatello’s were vulnerable in their nudity.
In Verrocchio’s sculpture, David carries a small sword in one hand and his other is on his hip confidently. This figure shows a nice S-curve and a stance of contropposto. Standing above the head of the giant, the sculpture takes place after the slaying of Goliath. The facial expression show triumph and most of all confidence. Therefore, this work shows psychological implications. However, it was meant to be more appreciated for its exceptional bronze sheen. The gigantic David by Michelangelo c.1501-04A.D. is an unquestionable masterpiece. It was originally commissioned as a decoration for the Florence Cathedral. Since the sculpture was so majestic, it was decided to be displayed in a closer, more visible area.
It was finally moved in front of Piazza della Signoria, where it would replace a sculpture of Donatello’s. This David is a full nude that shows David before battle. The face is in profile; he has a slingshot in the left hand and a stone in the right. The face shows extreme emotion which pulls it away from the classical genre. The design and stance of the figure has a confidence and arrogance that matched that of its creator, Michelangelo.
This version of the hero was looked to as a potent symbol in Florence, resembling the Biblical beliefs along with the fusion of civic beliefs. This is very unlike the symbolism of Donatello’s. The nudity symbolizes that David’s platonic love and belief in God protected him. Michelangelo’s David is an incredible representation of both the Bible story, in that it closely follows the scripture, and reason, in the references to Greek philosophy.
Thus also symbolizing that reason and faith Christianity can coexist. Finally, Bernini’s David c.1623A.D. conquers all in the expression of emotion. This public sculpture has a face full of determination and struggling. The exaggerated S-curve of the figure shows movement as David is throwing the stone.
None of the other three sculptures give insight during the battle with the giant. Also, Bernini’s David is clothed in a tunic and is carrying a pouch of some sort. He’s holding the rock and slingshot as in action while his feet are firmly planted in the ground. This is certainly the most dramatic and realistic portrayal of David. Bernini’s objective was not like the other artists of the David’s. His objective was drama. The symbolism is that of moments in his lifetime. An example of this would be the harp at his feet, depicting his abandonment of his music when he went to fight Goliath. The armor at his feet showed that his sure feelings and belief in God protected him. And the slingshot symbolized the triumph and victory over the giant. This work is one that gives the viewer insight into the mind of David and takes them to the scene. Each interpretation is interesting and has a slight mystery attached.
All of the four David’s excel in a particular area. Bernini’s David has the most emotional appeal, where Donatello’s has the most serene and innocent qualities.
Verrocchio’s displays mighty confidence and Michelangelo’s David best fits the Biblical David, in my opinion. Nevertheless, each sculpture will grab your attention, leave you wordless and in awe.