David by Donatello

Donatello created two statues depicting David during his career. His very first commissioned work was a marble rendition of the biblical hero created around 1408. It was a fairly traditional piece that Donatello created in his early twenties, and did not feature what would become his trademark naturalism. Its possible that his study of David's character could have informed his later and much more popular bronze statue of David and the Head of Goliath.

The second David was a commission from the Medici family in the 1430s. It was the first freestanding bronze statue of the Renaissance. The hero is pictured after defeating Goliath. He is nude except for his boots and a hat topped with a laurel. Donatello borrowed from ancient Roman culture when including the laurel; it is a symbol of victory.

Unlike Michelangelo's David, Donatello's David is extremely realistic and a prime example of Renaissance naturalism. His body appears lithe as he stands with one foot atop Goliath's decapitated head. His small frame and almost effeminate disposition imply that his victory is due to God's assistance. He holds a sword which looks huge in proportion to his body and smiles proudly.

Donatello's David was also the first male nude statue since classical antiquity. It is strikingly different from classical depictions of male nudes. To this day it remains a groundbreaking achievement, and a testament to Donatello's mastery in bronze-work. It is housed in the Bargello museum in Florence.