donatello sculptures david
In both statues, David appeared as a physically delicate and quite effeminate being. According to art scholars, the head of this young man was inspired by Antinous’ classical sculpture. Antinous was a famous Hadrian renowned because of his immense beauty. The physique of the sculpture, on the other hand, was rather ambiguous, yet alluring. It also depicted how the youth was able to overcome the mighty Goliath with the help of God instead of his own strength.
David is the name given to two sculptures by the early-Renaissance Italian sculptor, Donatello. In 1408, the artist was tasked to carve a marble statue of David, who was a biblical character that fought courageously against the gigantic Goliath. The commission to complete this project came from the Cathedral of Florence’s operai, who wanted to embellish the buttresses of the cathedral’s tribunes with 12 images of prophets. The sculpture was among Donatello’s early works, and it featured the artist’s immense talent and unique approach to sculpting.
The statue, cast in bronze, stands a little over 5-feet in height (159 cm). An illustration of the Biblical story of how the young Jewish fighter David killed the armoured Philistine giant Goliath in single combat, armed only with a sling and a few pebbles, it shows David with an enigmatic smile, standing with his foot on Goliath’s severed head. The young warrior is naked, except for hat and boots, and holds the sword of Goliath in his right hand. Allegedly inspired by classical depictions of the renowned young beauty Antinous, a favourite of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, Donatello’s work was the first unsupported standing bronze statue cast during the Renaissance, and the first of three famous Davids: the other two being the more conventional bronze (1475) by Andrea del Verrochio (1436-88), and the famous marble statue of David (1501-4) by Michelangelo (1475-1564). Other versions include the bronze (1470s) by Bartolomeo Bellano (1440-97); and the marble (162324) by Bernini (1598-1680).
Some art historians have suggested that Donatello was expressing a gay viewpoint through his sculpture, but this seems unlikely. At the time the statue was cast, this vice was illegal, and close to 15,000 people had been put on trial for it. To flaunt such deviancy would be extremely risky, both for the sculptor and patron. In contrast, other experts believe that Donatello was signalling that only with God’s help could the diminutive boy have vanquished such a terrible foe as Goliath. Yet others believe the statue to be an allegory of civic virtues overcoming brutality and irrationality. The only thing that art critics agree on, is that Donatello created one of the most revolutionary male nudes in the history of art.
There is a full-size plaster cast (with a broken sword) in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. There is also a full-size white marble copy in the Temperate House at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Surrey, a few miles outside central London. In addition to the copies in the United Kingdom, there is also another copy at the Slater Museum at the Norwich Free Academy in Norwich, Connecticut, United States. 
Donatello, then in his early twenties, was commissioned to carve a statue of David in 1408, to top one of the buttresses of Florence Cathedral, though it was never placed there. Nanni di Banco was commissioned to carve a marble statue of Isaiah, at the same scale, in the same year. One of the statues was lifted into place in 1409, but was found to be too small to be easily visible from the ground and was taken down; both statues then languished in the workshop of the opera for several years.    In 1416, the Signoria of Florence commanded that the David be sent to the Palazzo della Signoria; evidently the young David was seen as an effective political symbol, as well as a religious hero. Donatello was asked to make some adjustments to the statue (perhaps to make him look less like a prophet), and a pedestal with an inscription was made for it: PRO PATRIA FORTITER DIMICANTIBUS ETIAM ADVERSUS TERRIBILISSIMOS HOSTES DII PRAESTANT AUXILIUM (“To those who fight bravely for the fatherland the gods lend aid even against the most terrible foes”). 
In any case, Donatello’s David is a classic work of Renaissance sculpture, given its Judaeo-Christian subject matter modeled on a classical sculptural type. It was revolutionary for its day – so much so that it did not get copied right away. The idea of the life-sized nude sculpture-in-the-round evidently took some time to sink in and become an acceptable statue type.
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.
We know almost everything about the David by Michelangelo and we have already spoken of the bronze David by Donatello, now we are going to analyze the marble version kept at the National Museum of the Bargello in Florence.
David is portrayed victorious, after having defeated the giant Goliath, whose head figures at his feet with the stone that killed him still stuck in the middle of the forehead. The pose and the attitude express a conscious pride. He is a young, strong and proud, a warrior conscious of his strength that shows the trophy of the head of Goliath, while maintaining a superficial attitude, almost light-hearted.