Who is David? David is the man portrayed in the Bible who is destined to become Israel’s second King. One of David’s well-known stories was the time when he killed the Philistine giant, Goliath, with a sling and a stone. Many artist during the Renaissance designed sculptures of David. These artists include Donatello, Verrocchio, Michelangelo, and Bernini. Each of these artists chose to create David in their own special and different way.
The first artist who chose to create a sculpture of David was Donatello. Donatello’s David was the first life size nude statue since the classical times. His creation found a median between Classicism and the realism by creating David as a very real person. He was created to look like an Italian peasant boy in the form of a classical nude figure. Donatello was highly influenced by other classical figures, but when he created David, he didn’t create him as a Greek youth in his prime. Donatello chose to created a David that looked like a barely developed adolescent boy who at first glance looked somewhat weak, do to the lack to muscles and minor definition. Once David defeated Goliath, he cut of the Philistine’s head. In Donatello’s David, the head is placed under the foot of David while he has as large sword at his side. The sword seems too large compared to the boy that one might think David would have been too feeble to even lift such and instrument. The large sword makes it appear as if it was impossible to achieve the task that he had just doe. David appears uncertain of his accomplishment, as he appears to be looking down at his own body. David’s intelligence must have made up for his lack of muscular build. (Fichner-Rathus 331-332)
The next artist, Verrocchio, who also designed of sculpture of David, was one of the most imaginative sculptors of the middle 1400s. This young depiction of David is one of the most treasured and famous works of its time. When one looks at Verrocchio’s David, they can see a connection of the of Donatello’s David as well. It is not a similarity, but a contrast. Both sculptors chose to portray David as a very young boy, but Verrocchio created his David to appear “brave and somewhat older and excludes pride and self-confidence instead of a dreamy gaze of disbelief”(Fichner-Rathus 334). Donatello stood between realistic elements with and idealized Classically inspired torso whereas Verrocchio’s idea was to portray absolute realism in the very minor details. The technique between the two sculptures varies as well. Donatello’s David is what we call a closed form sculpture. David’s arms and legs as well as everything around him are centered around an S-curve Stance. This made Donatello’s creation appear balanced. Verrocchio on the other hand chose to create David with openness. The bared sword and elbow are projecting away from the central core. “Donatello’s graceful pose had been replaced in the Verrocchio, by a jaunty contraposition that enhances David’s image of self confidence (Fichner-Rathus 334).
The next brilliant artist who created a “David” was Michelangelo. He established himself as a sculptor at the age of twenty-seven when he first carved David. Most people find that he carved David from a piece of relatively unworkable marble. Michelangelo’s creation differed from that of Donatello and Verrocchio. This creation is not portrayed after David has already killed his enemy, but it is showing David as a “most beautiful animal preparing to kill-not by savagery and brute force, but by intelligence and skill”(Fichner-Rathus 345). This David has a sling hung over his should while holding the stone he will use in his right hand. You can see by the look at David’s body, especially the veins, that he is ready and prepared for the fight. Unlike Donatello and Verrocchio’s David, Michelangelo’s David is depicted as a young male who has just reached manhood and is capable of just about anything, which is part of the classical tradition. Similar to Donatello’s sculpture, Michelangelo’s sculpture also revolves around a central axis because it too is a closed sculpture (Fichner-Rathus).
Last but not least there is Bernini’s David, which is very different from that of Donatello, Verrocchio, and Michelangelo. Bernini did not create a young boy, nor did he create a young man. Bernini’s sculpture is fully developed into a man. By looking at the creation one can see he is both fully engaged psychologically and physically as he is in the process of slinging the stone (which is in his left hand) that brings down goliath. While we look a the creation, we feel a need to almost get out of the way because it almost feels as if Goliath is standing right behind us. “It is the anticipation of violent action that heightens this confrontation as David’s latent power is momentarily arrested (Fichner-Rathus).
Bernini’s sculpture depicts three of the five different traits of art during the Baroque period: motion, a different way of looking at space and the introduction of the concept of time. Verrocchio and Donatello chose to create David after he had accomplished his great feat. In contrast, Michelangelo created David before the battle, with energy flowing through the muscles. Bernini didn’t choose to create David before or after the fight, but during, which makes his a totally different piece of work. Bernini’s is the only one that includes time, and it gives the viewer a notion to complete the action that David has started.
Because of David’s positioning, a new concept of space comes into existence. “No longer does the figure remain still in a Classical contrapposto stance, but rather extends into the surrounding space away from a vertical axis. This movement outward from a central core forces the viewer to take into account both the form and the space between and surrounding the forms in order to appreciate the complete composition”(Fichner-Rathus 360). To comprehend this work we must not look at it from one angle but every viewpoint possible. As we do this we can see the sculpture change.
It is easy to see that the sculptures created my Donatello, Verrocchio, Michelangelo, and Bernini are different. Donatello showed David as a very young boy who seemed almost incapable and amazed at his feat. Verrocchio’s David is just an adolescent, but he appears to be a little older than Donatello’s, and have more confidence. Michelangelo’s David has just become a man and it actually looks as though he could slaughter Goliath. Finally, Bernini created a work that was fully grown. His imagination led him create a strong, brave David that definitely has the capability to kill Goliath.