Donatello Artworks Analysis Essay

  • Category: Art,
  • Words: 961 Pages: 4
  • Published: 18 May 2021
  • Copied: 131

This paper will cover the landmark work of Donatello; the bronze statue entitled David, 1430-32, which is located at the Museo nazionale del Bargello (Florence, Italy). The statue stands at 185 cm tall and the diameter of the wreath he stands upon is 51 cm.  David stands in the nude, aside from his hat and boots, with his right foot atop the head of Goliath. David’s large hat features what appears to be leaves. His left hand holds the sword of Goliath while his right hand holds a stone. He stands at ease with his left hand resting nonchalantly on his hip, the contrapposto position creates a sense of ease and confidence from David. David’s face appears relaxed with a soft expression, heavy eyelids and a subtle smile. The massive head of Goliath lies beneath the left foot of David with David's toes positioned in Goliath’s beard. Goliath’s large head has a detailed helmet that features imagery of a chariot and small figures with wings. The helmet also features large wings on both sides, one of the wings moves up the left thigh of David. 

Shape is an important element to consider in regards to this piece because of the pose and the details created. Line creates the contours of this piece while shape defines the totality of the mass between those contours. Within this representation of David it appears that texture is also an important artistic element that contributes to the character emulated by this piece. Donatello’s decision to use bronze as the medium of this statue gives David the smooth, polished gleam of a youthful and graceful figure. The smooth texture of the bronze body is contrasted by David’s curly locks of hair. Bronze as a medium also creates value within this piece, the deep darkness of the statue allows light to gleam off the protruding surfaces of the statue and creates vibrant highlights. Bronze also contributes to the coloring of this piece, the rich brown coloration of the statue creates warmth. It’s important to reiterate that the statue of David is a freestanding statue, this contributes to the volume he is able to take up and the negative space this creates. The figure is fully in the round which makes David appear more lifelike. The positive space created by the statue of David is complemented by the negative space Donatello has captured between the arm and hip as well as between David’s legs, and the sword and David’s right leg. The use of negative space gives the statue a natural flow and further emphasizes the boyish qualities of David by distancing his limbs from one another. Scale and proportion are standout elements regarding this piece, Donatello’s depiction of David life sized however compared to Michelangelo's depiction of David he appears much smaller and more fragile. Though Donatello’s David is life sized he is on the smaller side, he is just over five feet in height further emphasising his boyish appearance. Donatello has executed proportion well within this piece as the young David is well scaled and each limb/facial feature allows for a realistic representation of an adolescent boy. Goliath’s head in relation to the small scaled proportion of David has a heavy sense of mass. The head with it’s large helmet has a heavy feel and the fact that David’s foot is placed upon it seems as though it is so massive it can support the weight of David’s delicate body. 

This interpretation of the statue of David is a combination of the old and new considering this was the first free standing nude figure to appear since antiquity. Within this piece Donatello has reclaimed the ancient Greek and Roman traditions of depicting the nude figure which contrasts the majority of Middle Aged art which favored modesty in religious depictions. Believed to have been commissioned by the Medicini family this statue represents the victory of the people of Florence over Milan. Florence, a small city with a history of defending itself against larger enemies could easily identify with the story of David. This representation of David appears softened, the figure lacks muscle definition and the gentle resting of his foot on top of Goliath's head displays a more feminine nature than other depictions of David. The expression of David also portrays a softness, his face is relaxed and the slight smile portrays subtle pride. The softness of David is contrasted by the gruesome head of Goliath. The mass of Goliath’s head, large beard and brutish expression contribute to a more traditional sense of masculinity. Dontello’s depiction of David displays humanist qualities. The contrast between David and Goliath shows how will power can triumph over any challenge as well as how the will of God can triumph.. The contrast between these figures also has a sensual nature. The wing of Goliath's helmet climbing up the thigh of David towards the groin is sexually suggestive. Further looking at the helmet of Goliath the winged figures with the chariot appear to be cupids. Though same sex relationships were not legal in Florence at the time, the city did have reputation for accepting homosexuality. It is plausible that Donatello may have also been depicting the gay culture of Florence within this statue or even his own homosexuality. Donatello utilized form and texture within this piece to emphasize the sensuality of David. His use of scale and proportion also contribute to the delicateness and sensuality of David. The utilization of contrast within this piece also emphasizes sensuality as David and Goliath’s expressions are very different. David’s depicts a softness while Goliath’s is much more gruesome. 

Donatello’s statue of David is unlike any other depiction of the biblical David. His decision to depict a biblical figure in such an exposed and sensual manner was unheard of in Florence at the time. Donatello successfully uses an array or artistic elements to depict the sensuality, some of the most important being shape and texture. These elements allowed him to further emphasize David as a delicate figure who was able defeat the massive Goliath with the will of God on his side. Donatello's David is also a display of Florence culture, the small cities victory over Milan is expressed within this piece as well as the cities homosexual subculture. 

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