Michelangelo's David vs. Bernini's David

Analysis of a Renaissance and a Baroque David

The glory of the Renaissance is reflected in Michelangelo's David (1504), while the drama of the Baroque (and its emphasis on movement and action) is reflected in Bernini's David (1624). Both explore the heroic in the religious, social and historical terms of their day: for that reason, Michelangelo's is the product of a Christian age still united under one Vicar; and Bernini's is the product of an age divided. Thus, Michelangelo's is poised to be admired, while Bernini's is poised for attack. This paper will analyze the two works and the eras of art that produced them in terms of similarities, differences, and social and historical context.
Vasari says of Michelangelo's David that it is more excellent than all sculpture of ancient Greece and Rome and even of those works Michelangelo's contemporaries (Vasari 424). Vasari could point to any number of reasons for this claim: the towering David's introverted poise, for example: his hip thrust one way, his shoulders in the opposite direction; the thoughtful, brooding expression on his face, full of ability, calm, and confidence. Michelangelo's David is the epitome of self-possession. The sculpture draws attention to the greatness of the human physique. Michelangelo's David is an ode to what the artist considered to be the greatest of God's creations: man (Johnson 281). Indeed, Michelangelo-the humanist Renaissance artist-was completely "man-centered" (Johnson 281), as befit his time.
Michelangelo had no interest in landscape paintings-as other artists of his day (like Raphael) did. He was interested in the human figure and its relation to the divine. For Michelangelo, the human person was made in the image and likeness of God Himself-thus, portraying the human person in its highest degree of perfection and glory was what he attempted to do. This attempt is best seen in David, a marble masterpiece of grace, stature, and idealism. Italian society in his day (suddenly...