The Passion of Bernini David

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In the early 17th century, the famed Italian sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini created his David, a marble sculpture of the legendary Biblical hero who felled Goliath in the war between the Israelites and Philistines, as recorded in the Old Testament.[1] The sculpture was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese in approximately 1623 as a decoration for his property and residence in Rome, where it has been on display to this day.[2] Before Bernini, the story of David and Goliath had been rendered in sculpture several times, with the most notable example being, of course, Michelangelo's; however, while Bernini's work illustrates the same subject matter as these earlier works, it is unique in its appearance and style. The narrative of the subject matter lends an insight into the sculpture's significance. As the legend describes, the massive Goliath is put forth by the Philistines as their best warrior, and the Israelites are required to do so as well; the outcome of the conflict is determined by the victor of this duel. The Israelites select David, a diminutive and relatively weak man in comparison to his counterpart, and all signs point toward a decisive Philistine victory. Nonetheless, through the deft use of a slingshot, David swiftly dispatches his opponent and the Israelites emerge victorious.[3] This tale is often used as an inspiration in art for a population, as it reflects tenacity and resourcefulness, as well as the ability to prevail over seemingly insurmountable odds. In fact, Michelangelo's David was created specifically to reflect these values, as Florence commissioned the work as a symbol of its triumphs over far stronger and larger rivals.[4] While it was not explicitly declared as such, one can infer that Bernini's David was most likely created with a similar purpose in mind. Even a passing glance at the statue reveals the fiery and forceful style of
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