Compare and contrast Bernini’s David with Michelangelo’s David, describing the pose, body forms, moment in the story and overall effect and purpose.

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Michelangelo's David stands self-confidently, waiting for Goliath to appear. The emphasis is on David himself, on his perfect body and perfect poise. The effect this produces is to show that the giant he is about the confront is less important than David himself. There is no enemy that will rattle this man. This David is certain God is on his side. He reflects the assurance of the city of Florence itself in its Renaissance heyday.

Bernini's David, in contrast, is in action, beginning to sling his rock at Goliath. His lips are pressed tightly together in concentration, his eyes intently focused on his target. We feel the tension radiating throughout his body. He seems confident and determined. Unlike Michelangelo's David, he is a man in action.

Bernini, as did many Baroque artists, liked to twist their artworks to maximize a sense of movement and energy, and this sculpture is no exception. This David's legs are spread wide and his arms twisted to one side as he aims his sling. Unlike Michelangelo's David, this David wears a drape that adds to the twisting effect, forming a spiraling column between his legs. This added ornamentation is typical of the Baroque period.

The two statues exemplify the differences in artistic styles between the Renaissance and the Baroque. Michelangelo's early sixteenth century sculpture shows the emphasis on harmony and perfect form that Michelangelo himself would be breaking from later in his life. Bernini's David, sculpted more than one hundred years later, typifies the emphasis on circularity (in this case, twisting), movement, and energy characteristic of the Baroque era.

lprono eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The differences between the two works on the same Biblical character who defeated the giant Goliah can be explained by making reference to the different artistic and historical epochs in which they were executed.

Michelangelo sculpted his David between 1501 and 1504 during the Renaissance period which emphasized the importance of simmetry and balance in the works of art and took the classicism of Greek art as a model. Because of this artistic canon, Michelangelo does not capture David during his confrontation with Goliah, but preparing for it. He is standing and does not interact with the surrounding environment ("contrapposto" is the technical term for this pose). His muscles and face are relaxed and his peaceful expression gives him an idealized and almost god-like aura.

On the contrary, Bernini realized his David in 1623 during the Baroque era which prized excess and movement over Renaissance balance. Because of this new interests, Bernini shows David in the very act of confronting Goliah in battle, just as he is about to use his sling to throw a stone against the giant. His body is therefore caught under the strain of his physical effort. All his muscles are shown as tense and his posture is not upright as in Michelangelo's David, but twisted. There is nothing idealized in Bernini's David and, rather than being an entity completed separated from the world of the observers, Bernini's sculptures implicates its viewers in its baroque spectacle. The viewers share the same position as the imagined Goliah and thus become the targets of David's stone.