David by Michelangelo

David is one of Michelangelo’s most-recognizable works, and has become one of the most recognizable statues in the entire world of art.  Standing 13’5″ tall, the double life-sized David is depicted patiently waiting for battle, prepped with slingshot in one hand and stone in the other.  The twentysomething-Michelangelo carved the David after he had already carved the Pieta in Rome in the late 1490s and returned to Florence in 1501.


Knowledge of his talent as a sculptor, therefore, was growing, and his career was accelerating when he was commissioned to carve the biblical David for the outside of the Florence Cathedral.  Because the statue was intended to be placed in a high location on the church, it had to be large enough to be seen from below.  Today, it resides not outside the cathedral, but inside the comfortable confines of the Accademia Museum in Florence.


The David we are presented with here is a nude man with a very muscular physique.  His veins are visible in his arms and hands as he clutches the stones with one hand and the slingshot in the other.  His hands and his head appear to be disproportionally large for his body, possibly because they were deemed more visually important for viewers who would see the statue high up on the exterior of the cathedral.  Also, his left leg, which straddles the rocky base upon which he stands, appears a big too long for his body.  It accentuates the line of this leg as it forms an essential component in David’s contrapposto stance.  Like the ancient Hellenistic and Roman sculptures who were masters at convincingly depicting the human anatomy, Michelangelo has depicted David so that his body responds to the stance he is in.  David’s weight has been placed on his right leg while his left leg is at rest.  Because of this, his hips have shifted with one side being higher than the other.  In turn, this has caused David’s spine and midsection to curve slightly, and his right shoulder drops slightly below his left one.


Text source The Italian Renaissance