Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Baroque intro: 1000 Words : Boy vs. Monster

Just if you're interested!1000 words Boy vs. Monster, David vs. Goliath
Like a fisherman bragging about the size of his catch, storytellers long ago grew the size of the Philistine from 6'9 in the dead sea scrolls to 9'9" in the Masoritic Text, which provided the basis for most English translations of Biblical texts. If you're curious about how the specifics of this exaggeration, you can read more about it here. I make note of it here for just one reason: when artists, writers, and other storytellers compose their works, they choose to emphasize certain elements in order to animate their tale and in many cases, to drive home a particular point. The boy-hero David, later King David, has come to stand in for the underdog, again and again. A young shepherd, sandaled and scantily clad, armed only with a sling shot, already seems the longshot agains a big army general, but make that general ten feet tall and you've got some serious underdoggy appeal.

Pieter de Grebber, King David in Prayer, ~1635
The Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and the Qur'an, tell the story of David's righteousness, the events that led to his becoming the second king of israel, and his selection by God to ascend to that position. The Hebrew Bible indicates that God was unhappy with his appointment of Saul as king because, according to the prophet Samuel, Saul proved disobedient to God. Samuel sought a replacement for Saul in the sons of Jesse of Bethlehem, yet, after seeing the sons presented, felt disappointed in the lot. He asked Jesse if he had no more sons. Jesse answered that he had still his youngest, David, out in the fields tending the sheep.

Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau, The Shepherd David, ~1895 image source.

God found this humble shepherd an ideal heir to the throne of Israel (you can see how this prefigures the allegory of Jesus as the good shepherd, repetition of allegories or images being a typical trope in both the Bible and Qur'an).
File:Samuel e david.jpg
Samuel giving Gods blessing to David, Dura Europos, 3rd Century ce
Saul, on the other hand, he torments a bit, and only receives comfort from David's soothing harp. Saul does not yet know that David will replace him.
File:Saul and David rembrandt.jpg
Rembrandt, David Playing the Harp for King Saul, about 1630
Rembrandt, David Playing the Harp for King Saul, about 1660

Still king, Saul faces what the Bible characterizes as the greatest enemy to Israel, the Philistines. (philistines with a lower case p comprise the biggest enemy to Art History class.) Led by Goliath, that very big fish, the Philistines attack Israel.
File:Osmar Schindler David und Goliath.jpg
Osmar Schindler, David and Goliath, 1888
 Twice a day for 40 days of battle, Goliath comes out between enemy lines and calls for a single champion to fight against him to decide the victor. Neither Saul, nor anyone else, will brave this terror.  Young David went to Saul to volunteer. Saul, skeptical of David's potential but willing to take a risk, offers David his armor, which David refuses, feeling burdened by the full-sized gear on his youthful frame. Instead, he takes a few stones from the brook and his trusty slingshot, feeling confident given his experience fighting lions off his father's sheep, and his confidence that God has his back.

He faces Goliath, armored behind a mighty shield, and knocks him down with a single shot. (to the forehead? to the back of the leg? debatable). He goes to the fallen giant, takes up Goliath's own sword, and beheads him.

File:071A.David Slays Goliath.jpg
Gustave Doré, David and Goliath,  1866

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Rembrandt, David presents the head of Goliath to King Saul,  ~1627
That's the story in a nutshell, with pretty illustrations from 3rd to 19th century ce. Of course, the story tells much more than the triumph of one young Israelite over one powerful Philistine general. What other meanings do you see, or do you know from studying this story before, or from related stories in the Talmud, Qur'an, or perhaps from the story of Nestor, in the Illiad.

Fra Angelico, King David, ~1443

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Donatello, David, 1440's. Great article about this version of the David here

File:Donatello, David (bronze) detail of legs.JPG

File:Florence - David by Donatello.jpg

Verocchio, David, 1473, image credit here. Renaissance legend says the young Leonardo da Vinci modeled for the sculpture during his apprenticeship in Verocchio's studio

Study of David by Michelangelo - Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci, drawing of Michelangelo's David,  1505

File:David von Michelangelo.jpg
Michelangelo, David, 1504, ~15'
David's terribilitá
File:Michelangelo's David.JPG

File:David Bernini 1623.jpg
Bernini, David, 1623, look at more images online!

File:David Bernini 1623.jpgClick!
Bernini, David, 1623, look at more images online!

Andrea del Castagno, The Youthful David, 1450
"The unusual shape of this work is explained by its original use as a parade shield. Its painted scene is exceedingly rare -- most parade shields were decorated with simple coats of arms. This is, in fact, the only shield painted by a recognized master that has survived to the present day. It may have been carried in civic or religious processions or have been made as a sign of authority for a citizen-governor.
Images of young David, who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds to kill the giant, were popular in fifteenth-century Florence, the smallest major power in Italy. The city saw itself threatened by such Goliaths as the pope, the duke of Milan, the king of Naples, and the doge of Venice. David's image is especially appropriate decoration for a shield since, throughout the Psalms, David's poetry echoes the notion of God as his shield: "His truth shall be thy shield and buckler" (Ps. 91.4).
Like many early Renaissance artists, Castagno has presented the action and its outcome simultaneously: David holds the loaded sling, but already the head of the slain Goliath lies at his feet. David's energetic pose, based perhaps on an ancient statue, creates a strong contour that would have been clear and "legible" as the shield was carried. Nevertheless, the youth's body is well modeled, rounded with light and shadow to give a convincing likeness of a body in action." web gallery of art

Caravaggio, David and Goliath, 1600
Caravaggio, David with the Head of Goliath, ~1609
Caravaggio, David with the Head of Goliath, 1606

Bernini, Self Portrait as David, particularly interesting given Caravaggio's depiction as Goliath

Fichier:Oost the Elder, Jacob van - David with the Head of Goliath - 1648.jpg
Jacob van Oost the Elder, David with the Head of Goliath, 1648

Michelangelo's David after a two year loan to the United States

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