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. 
Donatello’s bronze statue of David (circa 1440s) is famous as the first unsupported standing work of bronze cast during the Renaissance, and the first freestanding nude male sculpture made since antiquity. It depicts David with an enigmatic smile, posed with his foot on Goliath’s severed head just after defeating the giant. The youth is completely naked, apart from a laurel-topped hat and boots, and bears the sword of Goliath.
The following collection of images demonstrates the wide popularity of the image of David and Goliath in fifteenth century Florentine art. It is well known that David was a symbol of the Florentine Republic, which like the Old Testament youth stood up to its rivals.
Andrea del Castagno, David, c. 1450.
- Pride/ confidence= relaxed contrapposto + the placement of his left hand nonchalantly on his hip feels
- right-hand holds the sword that he used to cut off Goliath’s head, resting on a victory wreath: shows his power and confidence with Gods help
- David has swagger in his stance onto of the beheaded Goliath= gives an unnerving feel
- Strange that he shows pride because God helped him: didn’t do this by himself
- Donatello: studying ancient Roman art: displays classical knowledge of contrapposto + large-scale bronze casting of the ancient world
- During the Middle Ages: had not seen human-scaled bronze figures until the David= first free-standing nude figure since classical antiquity (Ancient Greece/ Rome)
- Donatello displays ancient Greek and Roman art of the naked human body
- Middle ages: a period when the focus was on God and the soul and didn’t create nude art
- first free-standing nude figure since classical antiquity
Donatello, David, late 1420s-late1450s. Bronze 5′ 2″ high. Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence.
Sometime in the mid-1400s, The Medici Family of Florence deemed Donatello qualified for commission of the family’s art. Created for Palazzo Medici, this statue was first displayed in his courtyard, making it the first freestanding nude sculpture since ancient times. Before this piece was created, most still believed that nudity should not be used in majestic and beautiful context, or to represent gods, heroes or athletes. However, this David sculpture brings back the heroic sense of nudity from classical times since it depicts David after his victory over Goliath. The representation of David in their courtyard suggests that the Medici’s believed that they were responsible for Florence’s prosperity and freedom.
9. The differences between the artist’s first David sculpture and the second attest to the evolution of Donatello’s humanist perspective, which is emblematic of Renaissance enlightenment. As such, Donatello’s bronze David illustrates the merger of classical influences with such features as nudity, and realism, such as the artist’s choice to show David as the undeveloped youth of the Bible story rather than a classic hero.
5. While Donatello’s first David and his bronze David are around six and five feet tall respectively, Michelangelo’s version is more than twice their size at a towering 13 feet, five inches. Additionally, Donatello shows David directly following his triumph over the giant while the Michelangelo’s David depicts David prior to the battle.