The 16th century was the Golden Age of politics, art, and religion; in this time art and religion went hand-in-hand as most works produced would depict Biblical references. These religious paintings vastly came from Spain where the Catholic Church and wealthy families would commission artists (Spain). Michelangelo Buonarroti was one of the many artists to be commissioned by the Church; he was hired to sculpt a statue of David; a Biblical hero. The statue was built from 1501 to 1504 and is a 14 feet tall marble statue. This paper will analyze the religious beliefs and significance that Michelangelo’s David represented.
In Book 1 Samuel (The Old Testament); the story of David and Goliath is depicted. In the story, the Israelites and Philistines were at war. The Philistines had a champion named Goliath who was more than nine feet tall; was a giant amongst men. Every day Goliath would walk out and issue a challenge that if anyone defeats him then the Philistines would become the slaves of Israelites but if no one can then the Philistines will be victorious. Everyone in the Israelites was apprehensive including the king; Saul. Goliath mocked the Israelites and said “Is not one of the “God’s” people going to stand up to me?” (Yasshdeep). This part of the story presents the theme of a sinner who is challenging God which always means that retribution will follow shortly.
No one is interested in fighting Goliath as they knew that they would be slain. David who was a teenage shepherd decided to accept the challenge carrying only a sling, five rocks, and a staff. He stated to Goliath that God will help him in striking Goliath down. This enrages the giant and he rushes forward to strike David who hurled a stone at him. The stone hit Goliath’s forehead and he perished. This story makes it the most celebrated story of the Bible and the reason behind is a large number of artwork and statues made of David. It shows the triumph of Christianity against the oppressors.
Before Michelangelo sculpted his David, all other depictions of David were made after he had defeated Goliath. However; Michelangelo decided to break this tradition and depicted David before the battle. This decision made this sculpture the most iconic depiction of David. It can be observed from the expression of concentration on David’s face that he is thinking of a way to defeat Goliath. Interestingly; he has a very calm demeanor apart from his face as he lightly clutches the stone in his one hand and nonchalantly flung the sling over his right shoulder. This showed that David was confident of his victory as he knew that God would ensure his win against the giant. The head of the statue is over-proportioned which has led the scholars to believe that it was done intentionally to show David’s concentration (Puchko).
Michelangelo also had added gold leaf to the sling and the trunk of the tree but it got washed away over the course of 400 years. This happened because it was moved from the Opera del Duomo which was a Cathedral in Florence and placed outside the Piazza Della Signoria. The marble block used for the statue was rejected by several sculptors as it had too many imperfections that would compromise the integrity of the statue; however, Michelangelo accepted the challenge (Academia).
The statue of David sculpted by Michelangelo became the most celebrated work in the world due to his artistic decisions and masterful skills. It represents David moments before his triumphant victory against Goliath. It was a fresh take on the Biblical story of David and still discussed today.
Academia. “Michelangelo’s David: Admire World’s Greatest Sculpture at Accademia Gallery.” Accademia.Org, https://www.accademia.org/explore-museum/artworks/michelangelos-david/. Accessed 21 Apr. 2022.
Puchko, Kristy. “15 Things You Might Not Know About Michelangelo’s <em>David</Em>.” Mental Floss, 3 Dec. 2015, https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/71643/15-things-you-might-not-know-about-michelangelos-david.
Spain. Golden Age Art: Religion, Politics, Art in the 16th Century. https://www.spainthenandnow.com/spanish-art/golden-age-art-religion-politics-art-in-the-16th-century. Accessed 21 Apr. 2022.
Yasshdeep. “A Summary and Analysis of the David and Goliath Story.” Interesting Literature, 12 May 2021, https://interestingliterature.com/2021/05/david-and-goliath-story-summary-analysis/.