Monday, April 9, 2012

David, Bernini vs Michelangelo

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When I first began comparing the two different statues of David, Bernini’s Baroque “David, and “Michelangelo’s Renaissance “David” the first thing that came to my attention was the facial features. As you study the face of Michelangelo’s “David” there is a sense of calmness to it. There is little or no emotion depicted in his face whatsoever. Here is a man, ready to face a giant with nothing more than a sling, a stone, and his faith in God, yet there is no emotion on his face. No signs of fear, anger, trepidation, determination, nothing. It is nothing but an emotionless stare as if he knows what it is he must do and is content in fulfilling that task.


As you study the face of Bernini’s “David” however, there is a much different scene. You can see within his face a look of sheer determination and anger. His eyes are set with all of the rage in his body seemingly crunched up into his brow. The snarl of his closed and pursed lips demand attention as if they are telling Goliath of his fate as if he had foreseen it in a dream. Pure hatred pours out of every feature on his face. His cheeks are tense and muscular as if he is gritting his teeth, his nose flares with every breath and even his hair seems as if it is poised for the strike.


Moving on past the heads of the sculptures the next thing I took notice of was the positioning of the arms, his sling, and the stone. On Michelangelo’s statue, David’s right hand hangs somewhat relaxed at his side holding the lethal stone while his left hand rests lazily on his shoulder, concealing the sling, a weapon that was traditionally used by shepherds during that time, he holds within his grasp as if he were showing that the victory David will soon achieve is more of a mental victory than a physical one. He has tricked Goliath proving that brains are better than brawn. Bernini’s statue, on the other hand, is holding the sling, already loaded with the deadly missile, and is poised and ready to strike.


The body positions of the two statues are also very different. In the Renaissance version, David is standing tall and relaxed as if in deep thought. His body and position seem to portray him as being at a time just before the battle. This representation is a sign of the Renaissance Era and Michelangelo’s strong political views in that to the Italian people, the statue of David is more of a depiction of the city than of the battle between David and Goliath. The story is a parody of the city-state of Florence. The victory over the giant is a representation of the struggles the city had been going through at that time to become an independent city-state. David’s strong and powerful figure unmoving and unwavering was the symbol of freedom to the city of Florence and represented the republic of that city.


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In the Baroque Era statue of David by Bernini, the body position is very different. In this statue, David is crouched low with his muscles taught and strained against the great force he is getting ready to release. The art of the Baroque era focused much on movement, energy, and tension. The statue is more of a representation of the story of David versus Goliath than anything that was happening politically during that time.


As you look at the overall construction of the two statues you can also see the differences in the symbolism and the stories they tell. The Renaissance era’s Michelangelo depicts David as standing tall and proud over the viewers below. There are no clothes on his body; there are also no items on the base of the statue. This is a representation that Michelangelo was focused more on portraying and demonstrating the political views of his time than he was trying to tell the biblical story of the battle. This type of art was common during the Renaissance.


Bernini’s statue on the other hand, has several items within the statue that tell the biblical story of the life of David rather than trying to tell a more political story. First off, David was a shepherd and a harpist, not s warrior. When he volunteered to fight Goliath, he was given armor to protect himself. However, the statue shows David in nothing more than a few rags. The armor David was given is shown laying at his feet because David was not accustomed to wearing armor so he took it off in order to be more comfortable and better able to use his sling. Also at his feet there lies a half covered harp. This harp is half covered symbolizing that David had to put his love of music on hold and neglect the harp in order to prepare himself for the battle. The fact that the harp is only half covered though shows that David did go back to the harp after the battle with Goliath. David is depicted as swinging the sling toward Goliath yet Goliath is not portrayed within the sculpture; this shows that Goliath was still some distance away at the time of David’s strike.


The biblical story of David is represented much more vividly in the Baroque version of the statue than the Renaissance version; which is one of the main differences between the two styles. The story being told by the artists varies greatly because of the impressions they are trying to make on the people of their perspective times. The Renaissance was a very political time period with many things happening to the various governments within the area. The Baroque Era focused much more on the religious aspects of the time as it was right around the time of the new protestant religion and the catholic church was trying to keep or regain it’s members.





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