David by Michelangelo Interpretation

Topics: Sculpture





David by Michelangelo

David is a Renaissance sculpture that was formed between 1502 and 1504, by the Italian sculptor, Michelangelo. The sculpture is a 17-foot marble bust that displays a naked standing male. The character used in the sculpture represents the biblical King David, a special subject in Florentine art. The sculpture was initially commissioned as one of a set of masterpieces of prophets to be situated alongside the roofline of the Florence Cathedral. However, the statue was alternatively placed in the Palazzo della Signoria public square, in Florence City where it was made public in 1504.

Because of the personality of the individual it represented, it soon came to denote the defense of social liberties embodied in Florence, a self-governing city-state endangered from all directions by powerful adversary states. The original statue was relocated to the Accademia Gallery in Florence and replaced with a replica at the same location.

Historical background

Before Michelangelo became involved in the development of the statue, the management at the Florence Cathedral had planned to erect twelve massive Old Testament effigies that would also act as the buttresses for the building.

In fact, work had already started on these sculptures led by Donatello (Joshua and David sculpture) and Agostino’s unfinished David sculpture. However, just before the project was complete, the cathedral management ran into the challenge of how to hoist the sculpture onto the roof. Finally, they appointed a team of several artists to deliberate on the most appropriate location for the statue.

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Interpretation of the sculpture

Michelangelo’s David was slightly different from earlier representations of the theme in that the biblical character was not portrayed as the killer of the giant Goliath. Typically, David was always represented as holding Goliath’s head, and, in fact, Verrocchio and Donatello sculpted their own works with this traditional inclusion. Most academics believe that the masterpiece showed David when he was preparing for a battle with Goliath. Instead of showing signs of victory over an enemy mightier than he was, David’s face displayed a lot of tension and preparedness for combat. The muscles in his neck stood out stiffly; his facial especially his upper lip was taut; his forehead was wrinkled, and his eyes appeared to concentrate attentively on a far away object. While veins were protruding from his lowered hand, his body was in a tranquil pose, and he was armed with his sling that was lying offhandedly over his shoulder.

The calm pose itself was dissimilar from any other earlier representations of David; Both Verrocchio and Donatello had created sculptures of David standing triumphant over Goliath’s head while Andrea del Castagno had portrayed the character while he was swinging his weapon and Goliath’s head down at his feet. However, the entire range of masterpieces done by earlier Florentine artist had not failed to include the Philistine giant overall. The difference between his powerful appearance and his peaceful pose, possibly suggested that David’s sculpture represented his demeanor after he decided to wrestle Goliath, but before the real encounter. The large part of his body mass was stressed on his back leg in a manner consistent with the Renaissance tradition of portraying its subjects in retreated, composed positions, just before they sprung into action.

Michelangelo’s representation was that of the period between mindful choice and conscious battle. Michelangelo’s David was a Renaissance understanding of a general historical Greek theme of the upright valiant male nude. In the High Renaissance, contrapposto styles were regarded as a characteristic feature of historic sculpture. In David, the form stands with one leg supporting its complete weight and the other leg loosened up. This traditional pose makes the statue’s shoulders and hips to sit at conflicting angles, creating a small s-curve to the complete upper body. Additionally, the head was twisted to the left, whereas the left arm was lifted towards his left shoulder and his sling that was thrown on his back.

Michelangelo’s David became one of the most celebrated sculptures of Renaissance sculpture, becoming a representation of both might and youthful human attractiveness. The gigantic mass of the sculpture was the most extraordinary feature of Michelangelo’s statue compared to that of his rivals. One of the artists, Vasari described the sculpture as a marvel created by Michelangelo that had the ability to bring to life the past memories of the dead. He concluded by mentioning all the other marvelous creations that were done by Michelangelo over the Renaissance period. The sizes of David and other sculptures were an atypical feature of Michelangelo’s efforts; the effigy had an abnormally large head and limbs especially the right hand. These exaggerations may be because the effigy would have been initially displayed on the cathedral rooftop, where the significant parts of the statue would unavoidably be emphasized in order to be noticeable from below.

The statue was also abnormally slim when compared to its height. While most artist would have attributed this difference to individual taste, it was probably Michelangelo’s oversight that could not be rectified. It is probable that David was envisaged as a political effigy before Michelangelo started to sculpt it. Definitely, David had long been perceived as a political character in Florentine culture, and pictures of the Biblical personality were already influencing political actions there. Donatello’s David made of pure bronze as a distinct feature in the Medici family quarters. Later on, it still assumed a political role at the Palazzo della Signoria courtyard, where it represented the Republican government. Analysts have even pointed out that David’s undamaged penis that went against Judaic practice was in line with the traditions of Renaissance art.


Michelangelo’s David arrived from the Piazza della Signoria in 1873 due to the threat of natural erosion that would erode the sculpture as well as intentional damage. There were undocumented reports of vandalism in 1991 hen a man defaced the statue. After this incident, the statue was considered for renovation several times. A replica of the sculpture was however, made and placed in the exact position, in Piazza della Signoria. In spite of the awareness of the statue’s illustration, the utter magnitude of the marble effigy always surprised all the contemporaries and even the present day viewers. The present connection between Florence City and David is highly political. Since the Renaissance period, Florence perceived the David statue as a symbol of the city. David’s power, bravery and youthful assurance were the picture that Florence needed to project. In the 14th century, Florence regained its position as a republic. David signified the city’s sovereignty from unknown authority, both the aristocracy and colonialists. Like Florence, David illustrated a calm power that was often overlooked by many. The strategic position outside the state offices also made it seem like he was a guard that reminded the citizens to defend bravely and lead fairly.

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David by Michelangelo Interpretation. (2018, Jul 14). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/david-by-michelangelo-interpretation/

David by Michelangelo Interpretation
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