c. 1440s (Renaissance)
Bargello Palace, Florence
Subject: This piece depicts a
young David standing with his foot on the head of Goliath, who he has
just slain. David was a King of Israel according to the Old Testament.
He is said to have lived from 1037 to 967 BC. He features in many stories
in the Bible, but this sculpture shows him in his younger years. Known
to be a skilled musician and virtuous, he is called by King Saul to
rid him of an evil spirit which was plaguing him. Whenever David played
his lute, King Saul was said to be free of this demon. Later on, when
the Israelites are battling the Philistines it is decided that instead
of a huge battle with much loss of life on both sides, they will simply
pit each side's champion against each other. The giant Goliath is chosen
to represent the Philistines. Though King Saul is worried for David's
safety, he allows him to enter the fight. With a single stone flung
from a slingshot, David defeats the monster. He uses Goliath's own sword
to decapitate him, and he brings the head to the King. He gains much
respect, and by the age of 30, after Saul's death, he is crowned King
The Artists's Work: This statue was commissioned by Cosimo de'
Medici, and he displayed it in his courtyard. Though the piece was shown
privately it still caused a sensation. Even one glance gives one a fairly
good idea why. David is shown nude, and this had not been done since
antiquity. Not only is he nude, but the feeling of nakedness is increased
by the fact that we wears a a hat and boots, and wields a sword. His
hand is placed on his hip, and he is curved in a feminine or flamboyant
way. His body and face, while obviously male, have a young and girl-like
quality to them. This youthful, delicate depiction is meant to convey
a feeling that the battle was won because God was his protection. The
sculpture is extremely detailed and the realism likely disturbed some
at the time. Clearly a study in human form, the recently transpired
battle is not the focal point. Neither is the hidden face. The body
is front and center, and many at this time were not ready for such a
graphic and honest image. The level of skill required to make such a
a realistic study is something that was the only reason such a piece
was allowed to exist.
Reaction: When I first saw this piece, I must admit I did think
that the figure looked almost like a woman. Once I realized that it
was not, I changed to thinking he looked quite homosexual. Even as a
very liberal perosn, I was still taken aback. I can only imagine how
those at the time of creation must have felt. The head of the slain
giant was the last thing I noticed. Though detailed, it certainly did
not catch my attention or keep my interest for long. Looking at the
piece was a lot to digest. There is something disturbing about a young
boy battling like this, and this is only increased by his nakedness.
His nakedness, too, is increased in feeling by his hat, boots and sword.
I find this off-putting and for this reason my opinion of the piece
is largely negative. Though I appreciate the skill it takes to capture
such a life-like form, I certainly would not want this piece in my courtyard.