In this Baroque masterpiece, Gian Lorenzo Bernini depicts the biblical hero in the instant preceding the launch of the stone from his sling to kill the Goliath, called by the Philistines to fight against the Israelite army of King Saul.
On the ground is his dropped armour, donated by the sovereign, and a harp (the usual attribute of the hero) here ending in an eagle's head, an evident testimony to the commission and celebrative intent of the Borghese family.
The back of the sculpture is unfinished, since it was originally intended to be placed leaning against a wall of the Sala del Vaso.
Bernini was considered one of the most important sculptors of the Baroque period, this work underlining his masterful abilities to treat stone like flesh and fabric.
Made more than 100 years after Michelangelo's David, Bernini makes this sculpture his own and ushers in the baroque. Michelangelo's version looks back to Ancient Greek and Roman art, built to idealise the human body and in turn makes it almost seem like a classical column in its purity. Michelangelo's David is poised and tense, staring down the Goliath. Bernini's David on the other hand shows us the energy releasing, giving us the moment where the youth is about fire the slingshot to kill Goliath.
Here's Bernini is able to activate the space around the stone, constructing powerful diagonal lines and curves, whereas Michelangelo allows us to contemplate his ideal beauty. With such a direct confrontation with the narrative we seemingly forget that this sculpture is made of stone.
Baroque was a general progression in the 1600's when the Catholic Church used art as a means to affirm and strengthen the faith of believers. This was a major tenet of the Counter-Reformation of the Council of Trent that suggested art was didactic, and that art could be a teaching or even seductive tool to be used to deepen one's faith.
On permanent display at the Sala II - Sala sel Sole