Archive for the Donatello Category

Vanquishing Goliath

Posted in 16th cent, Castiglione, David, Donatello, Machiavelli, Medici, Pontormo on October 19, 2011 by babylonbaroque

I have as I have mentioned been preoccupied with course work, it has been a rigorous class. With mixed emotions, this class is ending Saturday, the upside being more time for “life”, this blog being part of that. The downside, I will truly miss the thoughtful conversation. That said, I am posting the intro to my paper Vanquishing Goliath, I have focused my research on Machiavelli’s The Prince and Castiglione’s The Courtier.

I argue my point concerning the superiority of Castiglione’s patrician approach versus Machiavelli’s pragmatic ruthlessness.

To illustrate the this point I open with Donatello’s David.

The following is a snippet:

In the courtyard of Medici’s palace stood a lithesome boy cast of bronze, the first free standing bronze of a male nude since antiquity. This depiction of David by Donatello created sometime between 1420 and 1440 was of such loveliness that Giorgio Vasari, author of The Lives of the Artists, describes it thusly “This statue is so natural in its vitality and delicacy that other artisans find it impossible to believe that the work is not moulded around a living body.” (152).




bronze, life size

Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence

This “delicate “ depiction of David, the very symbol of Florence and her might (Donatello had fashioned a previous depiction of the brave youth in marble,



and Michelangelo’s monumental representation is of course iconic)

stood triumphant in Cosimo’s courtyard,

heralding Medici majesty and humanist accomplishments. But Donatello’s vision of David is a peculiar one, this ephebe with laurelled chapeau and dainty boots,

sartorial accessories that only emphasize his nakedness, has a suggestive lilt to his hip that seems far more provocative then classical contrapposto. Is this louche boy really the most appropriate means of depicting fair Florence?

 To the fiery Savonarola surely this pretty boy would represent the debauched excesses of the Medici court.

Girolamo Savonarola


 To Niccolò Machiavelli, this very public display of magnificence was in sharp contrast to his dictate that a ruler must abstain from profligacy.

Niccolò Machiavelli


The Medici’s would fail time and again to heed his warning “…that when princes have given more thought to personal luxuries then to arms, they have lost their state.”  (Jacobus ed., 40); we are fortunate that his advice fell upon deaf ears.

Jacopo Pontormo

Portrait Cosimo il Vecchio de Medici


oil on canvas

Uffizi Gallery, Florence

 Gilded laurels to this fine “prince”.

Thank you for the indulgence,

until next time, take care,

Babylon Baroque