Sculpture Saturday *12

milkboys Art, Sculpture Saturday 7 Comments

Did we miss the (queer) point of one of the world’s most famous sculptures? Any thought of the biblical King David is bound to conjure Michelangelo’s 17-foot-tall marble masterwork. Although the sculpture, created between 1501 and 1504, has become one of the most famous artworks in the world, the iconic symbol of the Florentine Republic would not have been possible without Donatello’s earlier work on the same theme, which remains one of the most beautiful, enigmatic, and radical sculptures ever made.

David’s beauty also denotes ancient ideals revived in the Renaissance: the value of physical perfection as a virtue and a celebration of sexual relationships between men and beautiful male youths

Composed at some point between the 1430s and 1450s, Donatello’s bronze David represents a series of firsts in art history. It constitutes the first bronze male nude and the first free-standing statue—unsupported by or unattached to a support—since antiquity. At the time Donatello made the sculpture, the character of David represented how Florence saw itself: a small, mercantile city-state without a duke, and with a history of defending itself against more powerful enemies. But while the David and Goliath story became a popular motif in Florentine art, there is a subversive, queer side to this particular version.

Just a shepherd boy when he fought Goliath, David’s disadvantage is demonstrated here by his prepubescent physique. Naked except for a helmet, sandals, and shin guards, David’s androgynous body is smooth and unmuscular. He shifts his weight onto one foot in naturalistic contrapposto—rather than an idealized, heroic pose—with his hand resting on his provocatively jutting hip as he triumphantly steps his foot on the Philistine conqueror’s head. When viewed from behind, it’s almost impossible to tell what gender or sex the figure is. His hair is long and luxurious, and, judging by the traces of gilding, was originally presented as gold. In one hand, he holds a rock from his sling; in the other, the oversized sword of his enemy.

Read on…

Comments 7

  1. By today’s standards, one could consider this sculpture on the feminine side — and those possible “inflated” breasts could show there were femboys and trans* back in their day.

  2. Ancient statues are so beautiful and artistic, a very interesting discussion text to accompany on how in the past life was sometimes full of fun desire and sex.

    Keep them coming, Thanks

  3. Beautiful. @Penboy Adolescent males sometimes have teats full of milk. It is a hormone thing, the males are very ripe and throbbing with sexuality. Kind of like Vulcans in heat. Something to keep in mind when you see it as I have connected often when I have noticed it, when I was an adolescent of course. :P
    The statue is very beautiful. Oh to think of the goings on during and after posings.

  4. Calling Renaissance Florence “gay” is not really accurate by today’s definition of “gay” and is subversive (which can be good or bad). By the 1470s about half of men in Florence had engaged in same-sex behavior, but always involving a boy and not a man, and about half or more of the men who did so were married (to women). The boys were aged between 10 and 16, with the most common age being 15.

  5. There are really wee-made copies of this statue about 14 inches high available online.

  6. There are really well-made copies of this statue about 14 inches high available online.

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