Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi
I find Donatello’s David to be very interesting. I don’t find the piece to be extremely beautiful in comparison to other masterworks of sculpture during this time. The allure for me is the technical skills demonstrated in the metal casting of a bronze statue of this nature and the political statement that the sculpture generates. Also the figure itself is extremely well rendered and shows a high degree of competency in sculpting ability. The piece is visually strong and balanced. There are some discontinuities in the piece that make the piece interesting and more than just a beautiful statue. These details draw the viewer’s attention to think about why the form has been altered from standard of the more traditional renaissance sculptures of David. The choices that Donatello made visually read as deliberate because of the skill he had in executing the form.
The form of the body is very famine. It reminds me of a renaissance marble statue of Aphrodite. The belly has a fleshy look and is juxtaposed to the more masculine body structure that David ironically is depicted with. He has long curly hair which is actually historically accurate to Biblical period hair style for David. However, King David from the Bible would definitely be circumcised and Donatello’s David is not. Also, the pose while being contra-posto is a feminine pose. The hand gesturing is well rendered and softens the overall appearance of the figure. Goliaths Helmet has wings on it that are not symmetrical, one reaches all the way up the inside of his leg while the other is short. This draws the viewers’ attention to the back of the figure, and has led many to speculate about the sexual nature of the statue.
The subject matter itself is politically loaded simply by using the portrait of David. David was a symbol of Florence. Biblical David represents youth, power, vitality, and kingship supremacy. So any alteration on this form is a direct reflection of an alteration on Florence as a whole. The Medici family commissioned the piece and served to act as a political statement of their rebel nature and desire to be upper class and break boundaries.
Homosexuality during this time period was being outlawed just after a period of time when it was social acceptable. By commissioning a statue of such suggestive nature the Medici’s were bucking a societal rule. This was a way of demonstrating their power. The statue also provided a means of displaying their monetary prominence. Bronze statues are extremely expensive and have a connotation of lasting power associated with them. The Greeks made many bronze statues by commissioning one for themselves the Medici’s were bringing back the technology the Greeks had developed and cementing their Italian Renaissance social status as the highest echelon of wealth and art in Florence.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_(Donatello). Retrieved 2/14/12