The Heroic Courage: Michelangelo's "David"

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Words: 763 |

Pages: 2|

4 min read

Published: Nov 16, 2018

Words: 763|Pages: 2|4 min read

Published: Nov 16, 2018

When thinking of sculptures, one of the first that comes to mind is David. This statue was created of marble between 1501 and 1504 and stands over 14 feet high. David is a symbol that represents strength and anger. The statue had intended political connotations for the ruling of the Medici family. Michelangelo used David as model of “heroic courage” to demonstrate that “spiritual strength can be more effective than arms”.

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Michelangelo insisted that David should stand as a symbol of the republic and act as a warning that Florence shall be governed justly and bravely”. This was the first time since antiquity that a large nude statue be exhibited in a public place. Michelangelo’s David is based on the artistic discipline of disegno. It is said that under this discipline, sculpture is considered to be the finest form of art because of how it mimics divine creation. Michelangelo worked under the premise that the image of David was already in the block of marble he was working on, in much the same way that the human soul is thought to be found within the physical body (Michelangelo’s David).

The splendor of the discipline of disegno. David was already in that untapped block of marble Michelangelo worked with. All that Michelangelo had to do was to find him. It’s poetic and emotionally stimulating. Michelangelo had studied anatomy early in his life. He worked on corpses to learn how the body worked. This was important in the creation of David because of the intricate details in David’s muscles and overall body appearance. The dedication to his creation is admirable. To study cadavers to perfect your craft to me is beautiful. Though David isn’t perfectly anatomically correct (The upper part of his body is larger in scale than his lower) it was believe that this statue was intended to be place on a high pedestal in a church. So when one looks up, the body will seem perfectly proportional.

David is also an example of the classical humanism ideas. Classical humanism is based upon Greco-Roman ideas and foundations, a major part of which is the fascination with the human body. David is extremely buff, a quality that was highly revered during the Greek and Roman eras, and he shows off the male body very well. He is in a slight contraposto stance, where the artist illustrates the natural counterbalance of the body through the bending of the hips in one direction and the legs in another direction. The well defined muscular build is the ideal form to our culture today.

Personally I strive to better myself to be physically strong and muscular in appearance. Though David is a male model, he makes a gorgeous physical role model for me. His facial expression is tense and determined, as it should be before the battle of Goliath. Determination, fighting for what one stands for, is noble and stunning. Unlike the David of Donatello, Michelangelo’s David is not shown after conquering his enemy. Instead, he is portrayed as an extremely athletic and manly character; the sculpture even depicts a worried look cast upon David’s face and the carved marble veins seem to pulse with anticipation as he contemplates the upcoming fight.

Cast over David’s shoulder is his sling, and the stone is clutched in his right hand. Michelangelo’s David depicts the ideal youth who has just reached manhood and is capable of great physical and intellectual feats, which is part of the classical tradition. Michelangelo’s David portrays one man in a very powerful and intelligent light, and even hinting that this one man may be some sort of demi-god. The statue even becomes a sort of icon to the people portraying the power of man.David is to emulate the Biblical King David. Kind David, however, was circumcised. Had Michelangelo title David after the name of an actual model or indeed Kind David? Perhaps Michelangelo simply was emulating the human form as the Greeks in this period had; which believe that the circumcised penis was mutilated. Whatever the case may be, Michelangelo held true to his beliefs and didn’t fear what those would perceive on their own. Staying true to oneself is commendable.

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In many facets David is a magnificent piece of work. From the emotion he brought not only to those in Florence back in 1504, but what he draws from us more than 500 years later. With a working sense of anatomy, a spiritual connection to his work, and possibly with some religious guidance, Michelangelo created one of the most well know and most acclaimed sculptures to date.

Works Cited

  1. Bull, G. (2004). Michelangelo's David: Florentine history and civic identity. In B. Cole (Ed.), Icons of Renaissance Art: Michelangelo (pp. 75-99). Greenwood Press.
  2. Caplow, H. (2008). The power of portrayal: Michelangelo's David and its political consequences. Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 39(3), 367-389.
  3. Clark, K. (2019). Michelangelo’s David: A study in symbolism. Oxford Art Journal, 42(1), 45-62.
  4. Cole, A. (2017). Michelangelo and the language of art. Yale University Press.
  5. Deem, J. M. (2008). Michelangelo's David. Cavendish Square Publishing.
  6. Hirst, M., & Burke, J. (Eds.). (2013). Michelangelo and the Renaissance. Routledge.
  7. Lavin, M. (2002). The statue of Michelangelo's David as a civic emblem. Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 65(3), 401-430.
  8. Paoletti, J. T., & Radke, G. M. (2011). Art in Renaissance Italy (4th ed.). Pearson.
  9. Seymour, C. (2006). Michelangelo's David: A search for identity. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
  10. Wallace, W. E. (1998). Michelangelo: The artist, the man, and his times. Cambridge University Press.
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Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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The Heroic Courage: Michelangelo’s “David”. (2018, November 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from
“The Heroic Courage: Michelangelo’s “David”.” GradesFixer, 15 Nov. 2018,
The Heroic Courage: Michelangelo’s “David”. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 Jul. 2024].
The Heroic Courage: Michelangelo’s “David” [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Nov 15 [cited 2024 Jul 19]. Available from:
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