david by dontello

David by dontello
The Medici family commissioned the sculpture, and it was placed in the Medici Palace’s courtyard, in Florence. This action showed by the family showed that they are capable of owning the sculpture, which was considered as the symbol of Florence. Since this was considered as a scandalous act during that time, Donatello decided to end the issue by explaining that David‘s identity was merely an ordinary sculpture.
A number of scholars assume that the statue was originally commissioned by the affluent Cosimo de Medici, although the date of creation is widely disputed and unknown to many. Nevertheless, the sculpture presented the majesty of this noble and young hero that stands proudly with a sword in his hand, as well as the decapitated head of Goliath at his feet.

It is worth mentioning that some critics have interpreted certain elements of the statue (feather in Goliath’s helmet, David’s hat) to mean that the figure depicted is not David but the Greek God Hermes (the Roman Mercury). However, all references from the Early Renaissance (1400-90) clearly identify the sculpture as David.
Most art scholars believe that the sculpture was commissioned by Cosimo de’ Medici (1389-1464), who had a particularly high opinion of Donatello, but exactly when it was made is not known. Majority opinion appears to favour the 1440s, when the new Medici Palace was designed and built by the Florentine architect Michelozzo di Bartolommeo (1396-1472). In any event, by the time of the wedding of Lorenzo the Magnificent in 1469, the bronze stood in the centre of the courtyard of the Medici palace in Florence. Following the seizure of the Medici palace in 1495, and the expulsion of the Medici family from the city in 1496, the David was placed in the courtyard of the Palazzo della Signoria, where it was installed on a marble column. It was seen here during the mid-16th century by the Mannerist biographer Giorgio Vasari (1511-74) who wrote: “This figure is so natural in its vivacity and softness that artists find it hardly possible to believe it was not moulded on the living form.” During the 17th century it was moved to the Pitti Palace, from where it was taken in 1777 to the Uffizi Gallery. Finally, in 1865, it was transferred to the Bargello museum, where it can be seen today.

David by dontello
Before Donatello’s work, David was typically depicted as a king, given his status in the Old Testament. Here, however, we have a stark change in the way David is depicted. Not only is he shown in the nude, but he’s also a youth. In Middle Ages, nudity was not used in art except in certain moral contexts, such as the depiction of Adam and Eve, or the sending of souls off to hell. In the classical world, nudity was often used in a different, majestic context, such as with figures who were gods, heroes, or athletes. Here, Donatello seems to be calling to mind the type of heroic nudity of antiquity, since David is depicted at triumphal point in the biblical narrative of his victory over Goliath.
As for David’s youthfulness, Donatello has gone back to the early life of the biblical David to depict him, rather than to his later life as a king. It seems that Donatello is trying to associate David’s youth with an innocent and virtuous life. David looks young here – so young, in fact, that his muscles have barely developed enough to hold the large sword – that his victory over his foe is all the more improbable. Could David’s victory have been gained without divine intervention? Donatello’s work seems to imply that the answer is “no” – the victory was God’s rather than man’s.

David by dontello

  • 5 feet tall
  • Material: bronze
  • intimate, beautiful and vulnerable: warm tones of the bronze and small size: feel a closer connection
  • sensuality which contradicts that this is an old testament subject/ not a biblical representation
  • Gruesome head vs with beauty and sensuality of young David= Donatello depicted David’s innocence (instead of more masculine and frightening) in such a gruesome event
  • the bronze: smooth the seams and the surface and to cut in details (like the hair): just like Greeks/ Romans
  • intimacy: the nudity, the expression of the face, and the stance of the body
  • Contrapposto: natural stance very similar to ancient Greeks/ Romans
  • Free-standing: detached from the architecture gives it the freedom to move in the world, show expression, and communicate with you + contraposto= humanistic
  • David and Goliath, from the Old Testament
  • Israel is threatened by Goliath (giant)
  • Goliath threatened the Israelites and demand someone come fight him: but the entire army feared him
  • David (young shepherd boy challenges to fight the giants: father said was scared for son and try to convince him to not
  • David knows that he can beat Goliath because he has killed many wild animals that tried to attack his flock= he believes since the Lord saved him from the animals that attacked his flock he will save and help him with Goliath
  • David tells Goliath: you may come to me with all your swords and a big/strong body but I will take you down because the lord is on my side (paraphrase)
  • Kills him with a stone throw with his sling and beheads him

David by dontello
The story of David and Goliath comes from 1 Samuel 17. The Israelites are fighting the Philistines, whose champion – Goliath – repeatedly offers to meet the Israelites’ best warrior in single combat to decide the whole battle. None of the trained Israelite soldiers are brave enough to fight the giant Goliath, until David – a shepherd boy who is too young to be a soldier – accepts the challenge. Saul, the Israelite leader, offers David armor and weapons, but the boy is untrained and refuses them. Instead, he goes out with his sling, and confronts the enemy. He hits Goliath in the head with a stone, knocking the giant down, and then grabs Goliath’s sword and cuts off his head. The Philistines withdraw as agreed and the Israelites are saved. David’s special strength comes from God, and the story illustrates the triumph of good over evil. [1]
There are no indications of contemporary responses to the David. However, the fact that the statue was placed in the town hall of Florence in the 1490s indicates that it was not viewed as controversial. In the early 16th century, the Herald of the Signoria mentioned the sculpture in a way that suggested there was something unsettling about it: “The David in the courtyard is not a perfect figure because its right leg is tasteless.” [18] By mid-century Vasari was describing the statue as so naturalistic that it must have been made from life. However, among 20th- and 21st-century art historians there has been considerable controversy about how to interpret it.



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