(b. ca. 1386, Firenze, d. 1466, Firenze)

David (front view)

Bronze, height 158 cm
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

The first part of Donatello's artistic activity ends in the 1430s with the bronze statue of David. It was originally placed in the courtyard of the Medici-Riccardi palace, but after the confiscation of the Medici palace in 1495 it was moved to the courtyard of Palazzo Vecchio and placed on a marble column. It remained there until 1555 when it was replaced by Verrocchio's fountain and moved to a niche on the left of the door. In the 18th century it was moved to the Guardaroba, in 1777 to the Uffizi, and from there was transferred to the Bargello, where it can be seen today.

The David shows Donatello's elegant handling of Praxiteles's idea of form. But if the artist turned to antiquity for the representation of the nude and for the static balance of the composition, the vitality which animates the statue, from the thoughtful young face shaded by the winged helmet to the severed head of Goliath, is entirely new. The light activates lines which dart with extreme fluidity from whatever the observer's point of view.

Vasari's description is illuminating: "In the courtyard in the palace of the Signoria stands a bronze statue of David, a nude figure, life-size; having cut off the head of Goliath, David is raising his foot and placing it on him, and he has a sword in his right hand. This figure is so natural in its vivacity and softness that artists find it hardly possible to believe it was not moulded on the living form. It once stood in the courtyard of the house of the Medici, but was moved to its new position after Cosimo's exile."

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.