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David of Donatello

  • Via del Proconsolo, 4, 50122 Firenze, Italia
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The David, probably realized for the courtyard of the Medici palace, is of very controversial dating: the year of fusion proposed in the critical studies oscillates between 1427 and 1460. The most widespread dating is the one that places it among the works of the forties of the fifteenth century, when the great sculptor worked for Cosimo de 'Medici. The statue has the attributes both of the biblical hero (Goliath's head at his feet, the sword) symbol of civic virtues and of the triumph of reason over brute force and irrationality, and of the god Mercury (the winged shoes), god of commerce (the activity of the Medici family) who decapitated Argo Panoptes, the gigantic shepherd of a hundred eyes. The hero is depicted standing, wearing an unusual pointed hat decorated with a laurel wreath (the petasus of the classical shepherds taken from the classical type of the Sylvan Antinous). His hair is long and loose, his face turned slightly downward and enigmatically absorbed. The body is naked, apart from the shoes that reach the knee, and is softly resting on the right leg, while the left is resting on the head of the defeated monster, the giant Goliath. The soft and lively body, modeled in the antique style, is that of a frail and ephebic child, but extremely harmonious and ponderously light, with a posture that is proud and casual at the same time. In his right hand he holds his sword down and in his left hand, resting on his side, he hides the stone with which he stunned his rival. The base is composed of a circular garland resting horizontally. The body of the slender figure is unbalanced and articulated in a serpentine fashion, with one leg bent and the other outstretched to support the weight. The exaggerated sword forms an outward diagonal that unbalances the composition: it is too large and heavy for the slender, loose teenage figure. This deliberate compositional imbalance elicits the sense of oscillation and instability that runs throughout the body, accentuated by the play of light and shadow reflected on the highly polished, metallic surface and the muscles just indicated.

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