The Davids: A Comparison Essay

The David’s:
A Comparison
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
Donatello(c.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.

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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.
Arts and Painting


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