Thursday, January 28, 2016

St. Thomas Aquinas – Eloquent Ox, Angelic Doctor

Carlo Crivelli, St. Thomas Aquinas
From the Demidoff Altarpiece
Italian, 1476
London, National Gallery
During 2016 the Order of Preachers, the religious order founded by St. Dominic, is celebrating the 800th anniversary of their approval by Pope Honorius III.  Eight hundred years is a long time and during that period much has happened in the world.  In those centuries, the Dominican order has produced many great saints.  One of the greatest of these is the saint whose feast day is celebrated on January 28.  He is perhaps the greatest philosopher and theologian of the western church between the death of St. Augustine in the early fifth century till today.  He is St. Thomas Aquinas.
Master of Catherine of Cleves, St. Thomas Aquinas
from Hours of Catherine of Cleves
Dutch (Utrecht), 1435-1445
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M917, fol. 287













Life and Importance

Born in 1225 into the noble family of the Counts of Aquino in Roccasecca in the Lazio region of Italy Thomas’ early education took place in the monastery of Montecassino and was continued in Naples.  In Naples he encountered the Dominican order for the first time and resolved to join them.  His family was appalled by his decision and took drastic measures to change his mind, basically kidnapping him and confining him in a family castle for a year while they tried to change his mind.  He proved adamant and was finally released and allowed to join the Dominicans.  He was sent to Paris, then the center of advanced education in Europe, where he studied under his fellow Dominican, Albert the Great.  St. Albert was impressed by the boy’s intellect and took him along as an assistant when he was moved to Cologne in 1248.  It was during this time that the quiet Thomas was given the name of “dumb ox” by his fellow students.  St. Albert is reputed to have admonished them by saying “We call him the dumb ox, but he will give such a bellow in learning as will be heard all over the world.” While in Cologne he became a teacher.  He moved later back to Paris, where he also gained his master and doctorate degrees.
Anonymous Woodcut, St. Thomas Aquinas
Italian, ca. 1450
Washington, DC, National Gallery of Art

Later in his relatively brief life he was sent by his order from place to place to teach his fellow Dominicans, especially those of the Italian province based at Santa Sabina in Rome.  While in Rome he was also appointed as papal theologian.  In Rome he began the work that has been considered his masterpiece ever since, the Summa Theologica.  This massive work covers practically the entire world of thought and belief and has been a foundational document for both the church and western philosophical and theological thought from that day to this.  St. Thomas is renowned for applying Aristotelian logic to both the natural world and to Christian revelation.
Francisco de Herrera, St. Thomas Aquinas
Spanish, ca. 1656
Seville, Museo de Bellas Artes








In addition to being one of the great intellects of the West, Thomas was also a mystic and poet.  Numerous accounts from his own time suggest that he had attained a high state of mystical union with God, evidenced by reports of levitations and visions.

One of the requests he received as papal theologian came from Pope Urban IV in 1264.  Pope Urban asked him to compose the prayers and hymns for the newly approved feast of Corpus Christi (or Corpus Domini).  This feast, in honor of the Body and Blood of Christ, manifested in the Eucharist had begun in northern Europe and had spread to the entire church.  The beautifully poetic material Thomas prepared is still used to this day and includes some of the best known Catholic hymns in honor of the Blessed Sacrament.  Among them are the “Pange lingua”, sung every year on Holy Thursday and Corpus Christi.  The last two verses are the text for the hymn “O Salutaris Hostia” which is sung at every Benediction service.  Also still in use is the sequence he composed for the feast, “Lauda Sion”, as well as the prayers for the Divine Office and for the Mass of Corpus Christi.  Numerous other prayers still in use are also attributed to St. Thomas.  While the Summa may not have become a household word for every Catholic, virtually everyone has been touched at one time or another by these prayers. 
Tomaso da Modena, St. Thomas Aquinas
from Beauchamp/Warwick Hours and Psalter
Italian, 1430-1487
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M893, fol. 263r
In 1274 Thomas was teaching in Naples when he was summoned by Pope Gregory X to meet him in Lyons for a Council.  St. Thomas began his journey, but fell ill on the way south of Rome.  He was welcomed into the Cistercian monastery of Fossanova and died there on March 7.  He was 49.  His exemplary life and work resulted in his canonization in 1323.  In 1667 he was given the rare title of Doctor of the Church. 











St. Thomas in Art

The iconography of St. Thomas Aquinas can be divided into several categories, depending on the approach of the artist (or his/her patron) to the subject.  There are: portraits and “triumphs”, scenes from his life and/or his legend, as one of a group of saints and as imagined by Dante in the Divine Comedy.  We will look at all of them below.

Portraits
Jean le Noir and collaborators, St. Thomas Aquinas Teaching
from Breviary of Charles V
French (Paris), 1364-1370
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 1052, fol. 348v
The simplest images of St. Thomas are portraits.  No “real” portraits of St. Thomas were done in his lifetime.  Indeed, the concept of a portrait as we understand it was not even conceivable during the century in which he lived.  What images there were that attempted to convey a representation of an individual person were highly stylized.  But we do see such images within 100 years of his death.
At first they are stylized as might be expected, but as time progressed they became more and more individuated until a recognizable type had evolved.
Jacopo Landini, St. Thomas Aquinas
Italian, 1350-1400
Avignon, Musee du Petit Palais









He is presented in his Dominican habit of black and white, and usually displays or carries a book and pen.  He may have the image of the radiant sun on his chest, a symbol of the radiant light he shed on philosophical and theological thought.

Fra Angelico, St. Thomas Aquinas
Italian, 1440-1445
Venice, Collezione Vittorio Cini
Attributed to Sandro Botticelli, St. Thomas Aquinas
Italian, 1481-1482
Riggisberg (Switzerland), Abegg Collection























Jean Bourdichon, St. Thomas Aquinas
from Hours of Frederic of Aragon
French (Tours), 1501-1504
Paris, Bibliotheeque nationale de France
MS Latin 10532. fol. 364
Giuseppe Guidi, St. Thomas Aquinas
Italian, 1850
Rome, Passegiatta del Pincio




















He may also carry a model of a church, shown sometimes in a partially ruinous state.  I have not been able to find any solid information on the meaning of this symbol.

Thomas’ Life and Legend
Life of St. Thomas Aquinas
from Hours of Louis of Savoy
French (Savoy), 1445-1460
Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France
MS Latin 9473, fol. 174v
This illumination shows multiple events from the
life of St. Thomas



Thomas’ life was largely spent in study, lecturing, writing and prayer, the life of an intellectual and a saint, but not the most picturesque of actions.  However, there are a number of images that have come down to us that illustrate his activities.




Pedro Berruguete, St. Thomas Aquinas
Receives the Dominican Habit
Spanish, 1494-1500
Avila, Royal Monastery of Santo Tomas






















Master of the Tomasaltars, Master of the
Burgkirchenaltare and Erhard Altdorfer
Altar of St. Thomas Aquinas
German, ca. 1520
Luebeck, Sankt-Annen Museum



Erhard Altdorfer, Scenes from the
Life of St. Thomas Aquinas
from Altar of St. Thomas Aquinas
German, ca. 1520
Luebeck, Sankt-Annen Museum






















There are also a number of pictures that present “events” from the legends that sprang up about him.  Among these is the story of an event from the time of his imprisonment by his family.  His brothers were reported to have hired a prostitute to entice him to abandon his Dominican vow of chastity.

Bernardo Daddi, Temptation of St. Thomas Aquinas
Italian, 1338
Berlin, Staatliche Museen
Diego Velazquez, Temptation of St. Thomas Aquinas
Spanish, 1631-1632
Oriola, Museo Diocesano del Arte Sacro 

According to the legend, her appearance had the opposite effect.  Thomas is reported to have beaten her off with a firebrand and expelled her from his prison room.  Following this heroic defense of his virtue he was visited in a dream by two angels who bound his waist with a belt.  This imaginary belt is credited with preserving him from temptations of the flesh for the rest of his life. 

Sassetta, St. Thomas Aquinas Inspired by the Holy Spirit
Italian, 1423
Budapest, National Museum
The tiny dove of the Holy Spirit can just be made out against
the arch of the yellowish door to the left of the figure of
St. Thomas
Bartolomeo degli Erri, St. Thomas Visited
by Saints Peter and Paul
Italian, ca. 1470
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art

















Other life events that were often depicted were Thomas as assistant to St. Albert the Great, Thomas inspired by the Holy Spirit, Thomas visited by Saints Peter and Paul, Thomas presenting his liturgy for the feast of Corpus Christi to Pope Urban IV and Thomas visisting and visited by his Franciscan contemporary St. Bonaventure.
Taddeo di Bartolo,  St. Thomas Aquinas
Presenting the Office of Corpus Christi to
Pope Urban IV
Italian, ca. 1400
Philadelphia, Museum of Art






Alessandro da Bologna, St. Thomas Aquinas 
Visiting St. Bonaventure
from St. Bonaventure, Legend and Life of
St. Francis of Assisi
Italian, 1504
London, British Library
MS Harley 3229, fol. 26
























Anonymous, St. Bonaventure Visiting St. Thomas Aquinas
Peruvian, 18th Century
Philadelphia, Museum of Art
In this charming painting St. Thomas has been given wings.
This is presumably due to his title of "Angelic Doctor".

Related to the scenes from his life and the legends that grew up about him are a series of images a particular vision granted to him near the end of his life.  In 1273 it was reported by one of his brothers that as Thomas knelt (or stood or levitated) in front of a crucifix a voice came from the cross and said "You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labor?" to which Thomas replied "Nothing but you, Lord."
Francesco Morandini, Vision of St. Thomas Aquinas
Italian, 1590-1593
Prato, Church of San Dominico
Santi di Tito, Vision of St. Thomas Aquinas
Italian, 1593
Florence, Convento di San Marco



















It was after this incident that Thomas was reputed to have told a friend that after his experience “all that I have written seems like straw to me”. 

Allegories
Fra Angelico, San Domenico Altarpiece
Italian, 1423-1424
Fiesole, Church of San Domenico
St.Thomas is the Domincan figure to the left of the painting.
In addition to the pictures that are based on what is known of his life and of the legends embroidered onto it there are what might be called allegorical pictures of Thomas Aquinas.
Fra Angelico, Madonna and Child with Saints
Dominic and Thomas Aquinas
Italian, ca, 1445
St. Petersberg, Hermitage Museum

These are images in which Thomas is seen as one of a group of saints and of a group of pictures called The Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas.  The group pictures are usually composed of other Dominican saints, especially St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers, and St. Peter Martyr, one of the earliest Dominican saints.























Filippino Lippi, Annunciation with Donor
and St. Thomas Aquinas
Italian, 1489-1491
Rome, Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva
Here St. Thomas acts in the role of patron,
presenting someone who appears to be
a cardinal to the Blessed Virgin




Matthaeus Guenther, Detail of painting titled
The Holy Trinity Surrounded by Art and Science
German, 1760
Aldersbach, Former Cistercian Abbey






















Lippo Memmi, Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas
Italian, ca. 1343
Pisa, Church of Santa Caterina
In the Triumph pictures St. Thomas is seen as the central figure of the composition, usually shown seated and holding an open book.2

Andrea da Firenze, Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas
Italian, 1366-1367
Florence, Church of Santa Maria Novella
Cappellone degli Spagnoli

















Benozzo Gozzoli, Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas
Italian, ca. 1470-1475
Paris, Musee du Louvre
Filippino Lippi, Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas
Italian, 1489-1491
Rome, Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Carafa Chapel
He is surrounded by other figures, often comprising angels, saints and other philosophers and theologians.  At his feet in the majority of the pictures is a prone figure, often identified as Averroës, the Spanish Arabic philosopher.

Averroës (born Ibn Ruěd) was an important twelfth century philosopher, one of the Spanish Arabs through whom the writings of Aristotle re-entered Western Europe.  He died approximately 27 years before St. Thomas was born.  Thomas wrote an important refutation of Averroës theory of the soul, "De unitate intellectus contra Averroistas", which upheld the Christian understanding of the individual character of the soul and individual immortality.  This is the specific “triumph” that is celebrated in these pictures, as well as the entire body of Thomas’ works.

Another group of works might be called an apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas.  In these pictures Thomas is seen as entering into heaven or resident there as one of the Doctors of the Church, with the earlier doctors:  Saints Ambrose, Augustine of Hippo, Jerome and Gregory the Great.
Francesco Solimena, St. Thomas Aquinas Received in Heaven
Italian, 1625-1649
Lille, Musee des Beaux-Arts

Francisco de Zurbaran
Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas
Spanish, ca. 1631
Seville, Museo de Bellas Artes




















Jakob Vogel, St. Thomas Aquinas With the Doctors of the Church
German, ca. 1732
Bamberg, Former Domincan Convent of Saint Christopher


St. Thomas in Dante
Finally, there is a small group of manuscript illustrations of the Divine Comedy of Dante in which St. Thomas is included in the heaven of the Sun, where he introduces those who share this place in heaven with him.3
The number of spirits differ in these illustrations, but most likely include St. Thomas himself, along with St. Dominic and St. Francis of Assisi. 
Master of the Antiphoner of Padua
Dante and Beatrice Meet St. Thomas Aquinas
from Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy
Italian, 1300-1350
London, British Library
MS Egerton 943, fol. 146

Heaven of the Sun
from Dante Alighiei, Divine Comedy
Italian (Florence), 1345-1355
New York, Pierpont Morgan Library
MS M676, fol. 103


































Giovanni di Paolo, Dante and Beatrice Meet St. Thomas Aquinas
from Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy
Italian, 1444-1450
London, British Library
MS Yates Thompson 36, fol. 148
A marvelous summation of St. Thomas’ life is expressed in the words of Frederick Copleston, S.J., the historian of philosophy:  “it was a life devoted to the pursuit and defence of truth, a life also permeated and motivated by a deep spirituality … he was a great deal more than a professor or theologian, for he was a Saint, and even if his devotion and love are not allowed to manifest themselves in the pages of his academic works, the ecstasies and mystical union with God of his later years bear witness to the fact that the truths of which he wrote were the realities by which he lived”.4

© M. Duffy, 2016
_____________________________________________________________

  1.       Butler, Rev. Alban.  The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs, and Other Principal Saints, Vol. III, Dublin, James Duffy, 1866, pp. 38-55.  See also:  Kennedy, Daniel. "St. Thomas Aquinas." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 14. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 28 Jan. 2016 .
  2.              For a discussion of these pictures see:  Polzer, Joseph.  "The "Triumph of Thomas" panel in Santa Caterina, Pisa. Meaning and Date", Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz,  Vol.  37. Bd., H. 1 (1993), pp. 29-70.
  3.        Dante Alighieri, Divine Comedy, Paradiso, Cantos 10-12. 
  4.         Copleston, Frederick, S.J.  A History of Philosophy, Volume II Medieval Philosophy, New York, Doubleday, 1993, p. 304.

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.