David
David, who was destined to be the second king of Israel, destroyed the
Philistine giant Goliath with stone and a sling.  Donatello, Verrocchio,
Michelangelo, and Bernini each designed a sculpture of David.  However, the
sculptures are drastically different from one another.  Each one is unique
in its own certain way.
Donatello, whose David was the first life-size nude statue since Classical
times, struck a balance between Classicism and the realism by presenting a
very real image of an Italian peasant boy in the form of a Classical nude
figure.  Although Donatello was inspired by Classical figures, he did not
choose a Greek youth in his prime as a model for his David.  Instead, he
chooses a barely developed adolescent boy whose arms appeared weak due to
the lack of muscles.  After defeating Goliath, whose head lies at DavidÕs
feet, he rests his sword by his side, almost to heavy to handle.  It seems
almost impossible that a young boy like David could have accomplished such a
task.  David himself seems skeptical of his deed as he glances down towards
his body.  Apparently, DavidÕs intellect, faith and courage made up for his
lack of build (Fichner-Rathus 331-332).
Verrocchio, who also designed a sculpture of David, was the most important
and imaginative sculptor of the mid-fifteenth century.  This figure of the
youthful David is one of the most beloved and famous works of its time.  In
VerrocchioÕs David, we see a strong contrast to DonatelloÕs treatment of the
same subject.  Although both artists choose to portray David as an
adolescent, VerrocchioÕs brave man "appears somewhat older and excludes
pride and self-confidence rather than a dreamy gaze of disbelief"
(Fichner-Rathus 334).  Donatello balanced realistic elements with an
idealized Classically inspired torso whereas VerrocchioÕs goal was
absolutely realism in minute details.  The sculptures also differ in terms
of technique.  DonatelloÕs David is mainly a closed-form sculpture.  The
objects and limbs are centered around an S-curve stance, which balanced his
human form.  VerrocchioÕs sculpture is more open.  For example, the bared
sword and elbow are sticking out, away from the !
central core.  "DonatelloÕs grac
eful pose had been replaced in the Verrocchio, by a jaunty contrapposto that
enhances DavidÕs image of self-confidence" (Fichner-Rathus 334).
Michelangelo was yet another artist who sculpted David.  His reputation as a
sculptor was established when he carved his David at the edge of
twenty-seven from a single piece of relatively unworkable marble.  Unlike
the DavidÕs of Donatello and Verrocchio, MichelangeloÕs David is not shown
after conquering his enemy.  Instead, he is portrayed as a "most beautiful
animal preparing to kill-not by savagery and brute force, but by intellect
and skill" (Fichner-Rathus 345).  Cast over his shoulder is DavidÕs sling,
and the stone is clutched in his right hand, his veins in chief anticipation
of the fight.  MichelangeloÕs David depicts the ideal youth who has just
reached manhood and is capable of great physical and intellectual feats,
which is part of the Classical tradition.  MichelangeloÕs sculpture is
closed in form, like DonatelloÕs David.  All the elements move firmly around
a central axis (Fichner-Rathus 345).
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Finally, there is BerniniÕs David, which is notably different from those of
Donatello, Verrocchio and Michaelangelo.  Bernini emulated neither
DonatelloÕs triumphant boy victor nor MichaelangeloÕs posturing adolescent.
His hero is full-grown and fully engaged-both physically and
psychologically-as he takes aim and twists his tensed, muscular body a split
second before slinging the stone, grasped in his left hand.  David stands
alone, but Goliath is simplicity envisioned directly behind the viewer.  As
a viewer, we are tempted to duck.  It is the anticipation of violent action
that heightens this confrontation as DavidÕs latent power is momentarily
arrested (Scribner 66).
Present in this sculpture are three of the five characteristics of Baroque
art: motion, a different way of looking at space and the introduction of the
concept of time.  Donatello and Verrocchio depicted David at rest after he
killed Goliath, Michaelangelo, by contrast, presented David before the
battle, with the tension and emotion evident in every vein and muscle.
Bernini does not depict David before or after the fight.  Instead, he shows
him in the process of the fight.  This represents the element of time in his
work.  The views are forced to complete the action that David has begun for
us.
With DavidÕs positioning, a new concept of space comes into play.  "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).  In order to
understand the sculpture fully, we must move around the work.  As we move,
the views of the work change drastically.
As you can see, the works sculpted by Donatello, Verrocchio, Michelangelo
and Bernini differed drastically.  Donatello presented David as a young boy
who seemed incapable and amazed at his feat.  VerrocchioÕs David, although
an adolescent, appears somewhat older and has more self-confidence than
DonatelloÕs David.  MichelangeloÕs David has just reached manhood and is
capable of great physical feats, like defeating Goliath.  Finally, BerniniÕs
David is a full grown man.  He, like MichelangeloÕs David, also appears to
be strong, brave and gifted enough to slaughter Goliath.
Works Cited
Fichner-Rathus, Lois.  Understanding Art.  Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey:
Prentice Hall, Inc., 1995.
Italian Masters.  New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1940.
Meyer, Alfred Gotthold.  Donatello.  Liepzig: Fischer & Wittig, 1904.
Scribner, Charles.  Gianlorenzo Bernini.  New York: H.N. Abrams, Publishers,
1991.
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