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


Bronze, height 158 cm
Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

The most enigmatic of Donatello's sculptures both in treatment and in dating - for it is absolutely undocumented - is the nearly nude bronze David, which stood on an ornamental pedestal in the centre of the newly built courtyard of the Medici palace. Recently, it has been proposed that, rather than dating after Padua, the David was commissioned in c. 1435–40 for the old Medici Palace and moved to the courtyard of the new one built by Michelozzo. There it was at the centre of a complex intellectual scheme comprising eight of the great marble medallions that decorate the walls of the courtyard, above the arcade. These are enlargements of important antique gems, most of which were owned by the Medici, but their meaning is obscure.

It has been suggested that the nudity and sensuousness of the boy David, as well as some surprising details of his costume, none of which is derived from the biblical story, may result from a Neo-Platonic philosophical interpretation of David as an allegory of heavenly love. (Cosimo was the founder of the Neo-Platonic Academy in Florence.)

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