Analysis of Donatello's Sculpture of David

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David and Goliath is a well-known story that appears in the book of Samuel located in the Bible about a young boy named David who slayed a giant named Goliath. Donato di Niccolò di Betto Bardi, better known as Donatello, illustrates this event from the Bible in his Italian Renaissance sculpture named David. The bronze sculpture was the first of its kind because it was the first monumental nude figure since antiquity, or the classical world. In David, Donatello sculpted a bronze humanistic styled young David portrayed in a Classical rendition of heroic nudity, but its true meaning is a source of great speculation. The sculpture of David stands at 5’2 inches tall with a dark bronzed surface and can be seen from all angles. At first glance, David appears graceful and beautiful even after the slaying of Goliath with a contrapposto stance. His right leg is supporting the weight of his left leg that is on Goliath’s severed head in an almost feminine or childish manner. Donatello's ability to portray humanistic emotions is seen throughout the natural stance of David. He seems to have a slight natural smile on his face as his foot is on top of Goliath's head indicating victory. David is completely nude except for the laurel trimmed shepherds' hat on his head, the boots on his feet, and the sword that he is holding on his right hand. The hat, the boots, and the sword are rugged and rough in contrast to David's smooth boyish body which alludes David’s adolescence.

Although the biblical story behind David and Goliath is depicted in the sculpture, it appears to me that its religious meaning is not the point behind Donatello's motive of creation. In fact, the circumstances behind the potentially secular or religious sculpture is unknown altogether. However, there are speculations that Donatello is implying homoeroticism by the way that the wing from Goliath's helmet is touching young David’s inner thighs and the way that the swords handle appears to look like male genitalia. This speculation is what leads me to the conclusion that there is no religious meaning behind Donatello’s sculpture. Others speculate that the sculpture is a portrayal of improbable heroism because of David's pose and smooth boyish torso that can be attributed to being between adult responsibilities and childish interests. Another speculation about Donatello’s David is that politically it was meant to interpret Florentines victory over Milanese and the preservation of the republic. David, being a symbol of Florence during the time and his story representing victory of Jewish faith over the Pagans, draws a question that will never be answered about Donatello’s sculpture. Does it have religious meaning, is it meant to represent Florentines political advancements, or is it simply an erotic representation being portrayed and displayed? A lot can be speculated or assumed about David, like whether there are homo-erotic connotations, political connotations, or religous meaning. However, there is no doubt that this sculpture shows Donatello’s humanistic style of art. This admired classical rendition of David and Goliath, David by Donatello, represents heroic nudity which symbolizes strength and masculinity; however, the true meaning remains unclear.

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