Wednesday, January 20, 2016

David and Goliath

David and Goliath from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 1300-1325
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 160, fol. 135
David spoke to Saul:
“Let your majesty not lose courage.
I am at your service to go and fight this Philistine.”
But Saul answered David,
“You cannot go up against this Philistine and fight with him,
for you are only a youth, while he has been a warrior from his youth.”

David continued:
“The LORD, who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear,
will also keep me safe from the clutches of this Philistine.”
Saul answered David, “Go! the LORD will be with you.”

Then, staff in hand, David selected five smooth stones from the wadi
and put them in the pocket of his shepherd’s bag.
With his sling also ready to hand, he approached the Philistine.

With his shield bearer marching before him,
the Philistine also advanced closer and closer to David.
When he had sized David up,
and seen that he was youthful, and ruddy, and handsome in appearance,
the Philistine held David in contempt.
The Philistine said to David,
“Am I a dog that you come against me with a staff?”
Then the Philistine cursed David by his gods
and said to him, “Come here to me,
and I will leave your flesh for the birds of the air
and the beasts of the field.”
David answered him:
“You come against me with sword and spear and scimitar,
but I come against you in the name of the LORD of hosts,
the God of the armies of Israel that you have insulted.
Today the LORD shall deliver you into my hand;
I will strike you down and cut off your head.
This very day I will leave your corpse
and the corpses of the Philistine army for the birds of the air
and the beasts of the field;
thus the whole land shall learn that Israel has a God.
All this multitude, too,
shall learn that it is not by sword or spear that the LORD saves.
For the battle is the LORD’s and he shall deliver you into our hands.”

The Philistine then moved to meet David at close quarters,
while David ran quickly toward the battle line
in the direction of the Philistine.
David put his hand into the bag and took out a stone,
hurled it with the sling,
and struck the Philistine on the forehead.
The stone embedded itself in his brow,
and he fell prostrate on the ground.
Thus David overcame the Philistine with sling and stone;
he struck the Philistine mortally, and did it without a sword.
Then David ran and stood over him;
with the Philistine’s own sword which he drew from its sheath
he dispatched him and cut off his head.
1 Samuel 17: 32-33, 37, 40-51 (Gospel Reading for January 20, 2016)

Images of David have a long history in Christian art, and indeed even in Jewish art in the early Christian period.  They have continued to show many aspects of his story.  We see him as:
David the young shepherd boy, chosen by Samuel as the successor to the dishonored King Saul;
David Anointed by Samuel
Syrian, 244-245
Synagogue, Dura Europos, Syria

David Anointed by Samuel, Silver Plate
Constantinople, 629-630
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art


David as Shepherd
Psalter with Commentary
Constantinople, ca. 950
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Grec 139, fol. 1v























David the King, a musician and Psalmist;
David as King and Musician
from Bible of Charles the Bald known as the Vivian Bible
French (Tours), 845-851
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 1, fol. 215v
Master of the Roman de Fauvel
Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 1300-1325
Paris, Biblioheque nationale de France
MS Francais 156, fol. 254

Pseudo-Jacquemart, from Psalter of Jean de Berry
French (Bourges), ca.1386
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
 MS Francais 13091, fol. 153
Here David has put down his harp and instead plays a series of bells.
He is also sometimes shown playing a medieval organ.

David in his relationship to his wife, Michal;
David is saved by Mikal
from Bible historiale of Guiard des moulinsFrench (Paris), 1375-1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 164, fol. 106

Atelier of Jean Pucelle
David Upbraided by Mikal for Dancing Before the Ark
from Breviary of Belleville
French (Paris), 1323-1326
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
 MS Latin 10483, fol. 45v















David in relation to Saul;
David and Saul
from bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), c.1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 3, fol. 266v



















David the sinner, coveting Bathsheba and conniving to murder Uriah, her husband;
David Watching Bathsheba
from a Book of Hours (use of Paris)
French, 15th Century
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Nouvelle acquistion latine 183, fol. 95
David Giving Uriah a Letter for Joab
from Fleur des histoires of Jean Mansel
 French, 1475-1500
Paris,Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 55, fol. 62























David the repentant sinner, chastised by Nathan the prophet;
David Admonished by Nathan and Penitent David
from Psalter with Commentary
Constantinople, ca. 950
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Grec 139, fol. 136v

David Admonished by Nathan
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 1400-1425
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 3, fol.134v








































David the father of Absolom who betrayed him and Solomon who followed him as king 
Death of Absolom from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 14th-15th Century
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de Franch
MS Francais 159, 133
Master of the Roman de Fauvel and Collaborators, David & Salomon
From Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 1320-1330
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 8, fol. 148v




































and
David, son of Jesse, as an ancestor of Jesus.
Master of Simon of St. Albans and Collaborators, Jesse Tree
From Capucin Bible
French (Champagne),1170-1180
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 16746, fol. 7v






















But the majority of images I will discuss in this post are those that show him in his battle with the giant Philistine, Goliath, or in the aftermath of the battle.  These images begin fairly early.  One of the earliest images is actually a series of images chased into silver plates in seventh century Constantinople and currently on view at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, which show many scenes from the life of David.
Silver Plate with Battle of David and Goliath
Constantinople, 629-630
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art
With the recovery of Western Europe following the cultural losses due to the barbarian invasions, beginning in the ninth century the number of images of David begins to skyrocket.  
Battle of David and Goliath
from Psalter with Commentary
Constantinople, ca. 950
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Grec 139, fol. 4v


Catalan Romanesque Painter, Battle of David and Goliath
Catalan, ca.1123
Barcelona, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya






















Kings saw him as a pattern of Christian kingship, so many of the images are of David as king, often combined with his role as musician and psalmist.
Master of the Roman de Fauvel and Collaborators
From Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), c. 1320-30
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 8, fol. 212
But the event that sealed David forever as the special favorite of God, his defeat of Goliath with a simple slingshot, was always the most prevalent image.  We can find it in wall paintings, but most especially in manuscript painting, in all regions of the Christian world.
Story of David
Page from the Winchester Bible
English (Winchester), 1160-80
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M 619-v
Battle of David and Goliath
Psalter of St. Louis and Blanche de Castille
French (Paris), ca. 1225
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Arsenal 1186, fol. 77


























Master Honore and Collaborators
Anointng of David and
Battle of David and Goliath
From Breviary of Philippe le Bel
French (Paris), 1290-95
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 1023, fol. 7v


Masster of the Roman de Fauvel
Battle of David and Goliath
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), 1300-25
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Francais 156, fol. 146























Battle of David and Goliath
from Bible historiale of Guiard des Moulins
French (Paris), ca. 1400
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France,
MS Francais 3, fol. 124v
Andrea del Castagno, Youthful David
Italian, ca. 1450
Washington, National Gallery of Art




















Early and Medieval images of David and Goliath are dominated by images of action, in which David and Goliath face off, Goliath is hit and David severs his head.  

Taddeo Gaddi, David with the Head of Goliath
Italian, c.1330
Florence, S. Croce, Cappella Baroncelli

With the advent of the Renaissance in Italy, we also begin to find a somewhat different theme both in painting and in sculpture and it is in sculpture that the most memorable series of images of David were accomplished.   Picking up a theme already established in painting, that of the young David with the severed head of Goliath, and beginning with the work of Donatello we begin to see a newly distinct way of imagining the youthful shepherd boy.  
Donatello, David
Italian, 1409
Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello












The image is of the contemplative David, thoughtful and somewhat remote from action, either not yet in motion or pondering the effect his action has had on his enemy.1  These are the Davids of Donatello, Rossellino, Verocchio and, of course, of the great David of Michelangelo.  
Donatello, David
Italian, 1430-40s
Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello




Bernardo Rossellino, David of the Casa Martelli
Italian, c.1461-1479
Washington, National Gallery of Art





















Andrea del Verrocchio, David
Italian, 1473-75
Florence, Museo Nazionale del Bargello
Michelangelo, David
Italian, 1504
Florence, Galleria dell'Accademia
























These images set the pace for many of their followers and dominated the sculptural image from then on. 

There were occasional reversions to the older, active image, culminating in the powerful, very active David of the young Gianlorenzo Bernini.  
Michelangelo, David and Goliath
Italian, 1509
Vatican City State, Capella Sistina
Titian, David and Goliaath
Italian, 1542-1544
Venice, S. Maria della Salute





















Daniele da Volterra, David and Goliath
Italian, 16th Century
Fontainebleau, Musee national du chateau de Fontainebleau
Gianlorenzo Bernini, David
Italian, 1623-1624
Rome, Galleria Borghese
Bernini always aimed to engage the viewer in the sense of reality created by his works and he certainly does so in the David. 

But in the long run it was the contemplative image that remained the dominant one.  The 17th century saw a steady procession of paintings depicting handsome, mostly semi-nude young men contemplating the severed head of their adversary.  
Guido Reni, David with the Head of Goliath
Italian, 1604-1606
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Caravaggio, David with the Head of Goliath
Italian, 1609-1610
Rome, Galleria Borghese


Orazio Gentileschi, David with the Head of Goliath
Italian, ca.1610
Rome, Galleria Spada

Domenico Fetti, David with the Head of Goliath
Italian, ca. 1620
Windsor, Royal Collection



















t
Valentin de Boulogne, David with the Head of Goliath and Two Soldiers
French, 1620-22
Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza

Nicolas Poussin, Triumph of David
French, ca.1630
Madrid, Prado






























Bernardo Strozzi, David with the Head of Goliath
Italian, ca.1635
St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum


Pier Francesco Mola, David with the Head of Goliath
Italian, 1660-1663
Private Collection




















Only the Dutch seem to have been able to resist this trend.
Rembrandt, David Presenting the Head of Goliath to King Saul
Dutch, 1627
Basel, Offentliche Kunstammlun
Jacob van Oost the Elder
David with the Head of Goliath
Dutch, 1643
St. Petersburg, Hermitage Museum





















But the Donatello inspired image proved to be too strong, going on well into the nineteenth century.
Giovanni Marchiori
David with the Head of Goliath
Italian, 1744
Venice, San Rocco

Antonin Mercie
David with the Head of Goliath
French, 1872
Paris, Musee d'Orsay





















There has been a great deal of ink spilled over the identity of these beautiful young men.  Are they to be construed as depicting David’s simplicity, are they homoerotic in nature or is their beauty to be construed as a sign of God’s favor?  Any and all of these theories have been proposed along with differing dates for the famous Donatello bronze that started the trend.2  Recent argument has tended to attempt to view them in the context of their times and has come to the conclusion that much has been made of little.   Whatever the truth of the matter many of the world's museums have a David to show, though since the 15th century Goliath has been present largely just as a trophy. 
  
© M. Duffy, 2016

1.       Andrew Butterfield, “New Evidence for the Iconography of David in Quattrocento Florence”,  I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance, Vol. 6 (1995), pp. 115-133.
Robert Williams, "Virtus Perficitur": On the Meaning of Donatello’s Bronze "David", Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, 53. Bd., H. 2/3 (2009), pp. 217- 228.

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