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Donatello’s David had been created a century earlier. Presumably, the bronze sculpture of David was finished in the 1440s. While these sculptures belong to two different periods within the Renaissance period, portray the biblical hero king David in different light, are made of different material, and have many other differences, they are both sculptures of nude males, gave the same subject matter (David’s victory over Goliath), and display the features of the Renaissance art. My goal in this paper is to critically examine these two sculptures and find how each of them represents its style, time period, and the talent of its creator. Also, the paper will focus on similarities and differences between these two sculptures visually as well as in terms of their meaning. First, let us focus on the sculpture of David by Donatello. This is a bronze sculpture which represents a standing man who poses one of his feet on his enemy’s head presumably after a victorious fight. The man is a portrayal of a biblical character – King David, while the head under David’s foot is that of giant Goliath. David is depicted with a mysteriously smile. He is nude but wears a hat with evergreen laurel on top of it. He also wears boots and has a sword in his hand. If to refer to the Scriptures, the sword is that of Goliath. Interestingly, the helmet of Goliath’s head features a feather. It looks as though it was attached to the victor’s foot. David, Donatello, bronze, circa 1440s Just as its predecessor – Donatello’s marble sculpture of David completed at the very beginning of the 15th century – bronze David appeared to be among the first free-standing sculptures of nude men since the time of Graeco-Roman civilization. Moreover, David within Donatello’s authorship was remarkably natural. This was possible to achieve due to the recently developed technique of schiacciato. The latter was about carving in a rather low relief with the help of the mathematical perspective trick taught by Brunelleschi, a famous architect of that time. That technique helped create illusion of bigger depth (Moretti, 2010, p.32). David by Michelangelo portrays King David in nude. David is presented in a pose which is clearly serene and confident. It seems he is contemplating something important. Perhaps this is the fight that he is about to have with Goliath, a giant warrior of enormous physical strength. This is the most widespread version of the statue’s background. Other critics also say David may be portrayed thinking about his victory after he defeated Goliath. The meaning behind this statue is “aspiration toward freedom, justice, and good government” (Bussagli, 2000, p.48). David, Michelangelo, marble, 1501-1504. The differences between these two sculptures of David stem from the fact that they were created within different periods. Donatello (1386-1466) lived and worked in Early Renaissance whose borders with late Middle Ages with its Gothic sculpture and architecture were still blurred. In history, this period is known as Quattrocento. Frederick Hartt in his History of Italian Renaissance Art (2006) refers to Quattrocento as to the forefront of Italian Renaissance. It encompassed culture and artistic heritage of both Middle Ages and Early Renaissance and may be called a transition from the medieval period to Renaissance. Revolutionary by its clearly expressed individualism, which was a sign of dramatic changes in all spheres of human life (economic, social, as well as cultural), Quattrocento was characterized by integration of Greek and Roman classic representations into the arts. At the same time, the Quattrocento artworks differed from those of High Renaissance with their highly perfect forms, lines, and representations. As or Donatello, he was a
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