(b. 1475, Caprese, d. 1564, Roma)


Marble, height 434 cm
Galleria dell'Accademia, Florence

The David is the first of Michelangelo's surviving depictions of the heroic male nude in which the entire emotional charge is carried by the articulation and twist of the body and limbs against the head. Stripped of all attributes but the minimal sling, this David carries no sword, and not even the head of Goliath distracts from his stark nudity. The figure's authority seems to stem from the swing of the thorax, within which is a dramatic play of intercostal and abdominal muscles, stretched on the left, compressed on the right. But other details - the highly particularized right hand, for example, large, veined, quite unideal - suggest latent power in a figure apparently at rest. In a formal sense, the David is a classicizing work recalling the Dioscuri (Rome, Quirinale) or nudes found on Roman sarcophagi, perhaps mediated by Nicola Pisano's Herculean figure of Fortitude (Pisa, Baptistery, pulpit). Conceptually, however, it was unprecedented.