sculptures of david by donatello
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.
Nevertheless, this masterpiece by Donatello has remained as one of the topics among scholars. They believe that the nakedness of the young boy implies the concept of God’s presence in him, and it contrasts the appearance of the heavily-armored Goliath on his feet. David is also presented as an uncircumcised young man, as it was quite a common feature in most Italian Renaissance paintings or sculptures.
Plastic art by Donatello can be seen in situ across Italy – see, for instance, his bronze Equestrian Statue of the Gattamelata (Condottiere Erasmo da Narni) (1444-53) in the Piazza del Santo, Siena – and in several of the world’s best art museums, notably the Bargello Museum and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo (both in Florence). There are several copies of Donatello’s David: including a plaster replica at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; a white marble copy at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Surrey; and a plaster copy at the Slater Museum in Norwich, Connecticut, United States.
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.
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. 
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.”  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.
Donatello, David, c. 1440-1460, bronze
Perhaps Donatello’s landmark work – and one of the greatest sculptural works of the early Renaissance – was his bronze statue of David. This work signals the return of the nude sculpture in the round figure, and because it was the first such work like this in over a thousand years, it is one of the most important works in the history of western art.
2. The Renaissance David statues by Donatello, Verrocchio and Michelangelo remain in Florence, where they were created, to the present day. The city had adopted David as a symbol of triumph over larger, more powerful foes early in the era. The Bellano is now housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City while the Bernini version is located at the Galleria Borghese in Rome.
Donatello’s David was also the first male nude statue since classical antiquity. It is strikingly different from classical depictions of male nudes. To this day it remains a groundbreaking achievement, and a testament to Donatello’s mastery in bronze-work. It is housed in the Bargello museum in Florence.