Document Type


Publication Date



As the first approaching life-sized, freestanding, sensuous, bronze nude since Antiquity, Donatello’s bronze David is a critical monument of the Italian Renaissance. It is also one of the most enigmatic. David is nude, but not completely unclothed, wearing a feminine-looking hat and knee-high boots. David holds a rock and a sword, while standing suggestively, on the head of Goliath. He stands in a relaxed contrapposto stance. His left hand, held to his hip, holds a stone. His right hand is resting on an oversized sword, which points downward to the helmet of Goliath, between the feet of David. As Zuraw pointed out in a talk at the 2000 Renaissance Society of America Meeting, we see different points in the narrative of the story of David and Goliath: holding the stone, before making the fatal sling shot strike, and standing on the decapitated head of Goliath after the kill. The image of David slaying Goliath was rare in art before Donatello, who created an earlier David in 1408 – 16. Before Donatello’s images, David was usually portrayed as a prophet, psalmist, or ancestor of Christ.


Paper presented at the Barnard College Medieval and Renaissance Symposium, New York City, NY, December 7, 2002.