Friday, March 23, 2012

David and Goliath

David by
Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Donatello, Bernini

1 Samuel 17:45 – 47

Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield:  but I come to thee in the name of the Lord… the Lord saveth not with sword and spear:  for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hands.

C L I C K     T O     E N L A R G E 

Caravaggio, Michelangelo Merisi da
1571 – 1610
David with the Head of Goliath
1607 or 1609/10
Oil on canvas:  49.25 x 39.4 in / 125.1 x 100.1 cm
Galleria Borghese, Rome
Picture:  1616 x 2000  -  Wikipedia

Like Rembrandt, Caravaggio uses a theatrical contrast between light and dark to isolate his subject and give it a dramatic focus.

1498 – 1500
Picture:  1584 x 1660  -  Wikipedia

The triumph of Michelangelo’s Pieta brought the 26 year old sculptor to the attention of the directors of Duomo, the Florence Cathedral.  They had a tall, shallow and flawed piece of marble that had been sitting around for nearly fifty years.  What was the harm in asking this brilliant artist if he’d create for them David from stone. 

Michelangelo, Buonarroti
1475 – 1564
1501 – 4
Marble:  13 ft 5 in / 4.08 m
Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence
Picture:  2080 x 3448  -  Wikipedia

David is a determined champion of a just cause contemplating his adversary, Goliath.

David – Head
Picture:  882 x 1200 at 150 dpi  -  SUNY

The body shows an almost calm repose while the face reveals tension and pent up aggression.  There is the calculated focus of his look just prior to the release of lethal energy. 

Donatello – Donato di Niccolo
1386 – 1466
1425 – 30
Bronze:  62.25 inches / 158 cm
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence
Picture:  1066 x 1719 at 300 dpi  -  Wikipedia
It’s going to take both arms for this kid to just lift his sword.  A victory over Goliath is clearly God’s.  This sculpture is pure allegory.  Donatello’s work has its merits but they have nothing to do with depicting the Biblical David, second king of Israel, stepping forth from the ranks of Saul’s army to challenge the Philistine giant.  Lose the hat.  But I’m being too literal, aren’t I? 

Bernini, Gianlorenzo
1598 – 1680
Marble:  lifesize
Galleria Borghese, Rome
Picture:  500 x 659 at 96 dpi  -  Gilman School
Bernini’s David is in the act of delivering a fatal missile to Goliath’s head.  Where Donatello’s David relies too much on the hand of God to defeat Goliath, this David could almost go it alone.  He doesn’t need a sword, spear or shield because he’s got one heck of a wind up and powerful arm.  Put pinstrips on him and he’s starting pitcher for the Yankees.

David – Head
Picture:  545 x 418 at 96 dpi  -  Nosso Vinho

Bernini’s David stands alone in capturing the moment of decisive action as opposed to a study of contemplation.  Exertion overwhelms the inner life’s portrayal save for a determined focus on purpose.

Caravaggio mutes the moment of triumph with an air of compassion for the fallen warrior.  Donatello attires a pubescent boy as champion of his Biblical people.  Bernini provides a study of the body at its pinnacle prior to delivering maximized energy.  Michelangelo provides a more classical Greek figure but with a face that expresses an inner life.  Four artists whose inclinations are modeled by the passage of 1 Samuel about virtue and strength.

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