Reading the work of art: Michelangelo's David


This is the third and last part of three of a study dedicated to Michelangelo's David. You can read the first part 
here and the second part here.


Beauty and harmony in sculpture is partly a result of the resumption of the classic counterbalance, also called the Canon of Polykleitos, passed down through the Middle Ages and typical of the Renaissance, including the works of Michelangelo. Movement and life are transferred to the sculpted figure, as the right leg and arm are extended outward, while the left limbs are held tight in tension. This was truly the rebirth of ancient beauty, but with an entirely new significance.

His head is turned sharply to the left, his gaze transfixed on his adversary: David is frozen in the moment when he targets his foe and prepares to deliver the mortal blow. David is nude. His body is as beautiful as an ancient statue, expressing his physical and moral strength.

His body weight rests entirely on his right leg, the muscles contracting in a demonstration of strength as the left leg flexes forward. His left arm is bent to hold the sling on his shoulder while the right is extended along his side, ready to spring into action. In his right hand he holds the stone.

The statue protrudes slightly from its base, the raised heel preparing to hurl the body and launch the shot, head turned to the left locating his target, eyes concentrated on finding the precise point to deliver the blow.


Michelangelo's David is a work of great political significance
. His representation breaks with the tradition that had David shown at the end of the battle, with the head of Goliath at his feet (as was done with the works of Donatello and Verrochio).

Michelangelo's David was meant to represent the newborn republic and was intended to be a departure from the David of Donatello that sanctioned the divine consecration of the Medici tyranny (it was not by chance that with the birth of the Republic the work of Donatello was taken away from the Palazzo Medici).

David, in Michelangelo's work, was the representation of the Republic - while Goliath was the real threat of the Medici, even if far from the city.

The biblical hero that fought for the liberty of his people against a foreign giant was quickly chosen by the Florentine people as a symbol of the new republic, as well as a symbol of the values of the Renaissance. Tradition remembers the David as the first nude statue of the Renaissance, a visible symbol of human strength. The hero has nothing to hide, while he demonstrates his moral virtue in a tense gaze primed to use the force of reason.

David is the young hero of the Bible who defeats the giant with the use of a simple sling and stone, but many interpretations have found a further symbolic significance in his attributes.

The large head represents the thought that was at that time being reborn. The big eyes that look out into the distance indicate foresight to prevent a possible return of the Medici. The large hands represent the work of the Florentine people to bring so much beauty to their city. Just as the muscular body represents the strength of the town. And finally the youth of the republic itself is represented by the masculine appendage, small relative to the grandeur of the body.

It is thanks to Michelangelo that we see a body strangely out of proportion, but entirely linked to a precise meaning. Where then is the beauty of the statue? It is there in the ability of the artist to have combined abnormal forms with such harmony that they are ultimately hidden within the overall look.

Data: 22/02/2016 - Category: Attractions


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