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Donatello & Michelangelo

Donatello's bronze David (c. 1430) and Michelangelo's marble David (1504) are, nominally, treatments of the same subject. Yet -- considering the fact that both drew on the same iconographic tradition, were made within seventy-five years of each other, were created in Florence and credited with political meanings, and were important landmarks in the influence of classical art on the Renaissance -- it would be difficult to imagine two sculptures that were more different. A comparison of these two works will demonstrate how the sculptors made iconographic choices suited to the functions of their statues and how each man took a different approach to the integration of the antique into his style.

The differences in the two Davids stem, in part, from the fact that Donatello (1386-1466) was the premier sculptor of the first phase of the Florentine Renaissance, defined roughly as the period from 1400 to the mid-1440s, and, as such, was a pioneer in the introduction of classical style and concepts into contemporary art. Michelangelo (1475-1564), on the other hand, was a leading painter and architect as well as the dominant sculptor of the High Renaissance, a period that began around the turn of the sixteenth century, when "artists continued the most original trends of the fifteenth century, arriving at new solutions" to problems posed nearly a century ago (Adams 121). Other contrasts between the two Davids derive from variations in the conditions of their production. Donatello's statue is believed to have been a private commission that was later placed on semi-public display. Michelangelo's David, however, was intended from the first as a public work of art, although its original site was abandoned in favor of a more prominent position. But both artists created figures of a youthful David who embodied their notions of ideal human beauty. And both these works were subsequently interpreted as emblems of the Florentine state -- interp...

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Donatello & Michelangelo. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 21:35, September 28, 2016, from