The period of the High Renaissance spanned over the years of 1490 to 1527. It was centered in Rome and was financed by the popes. This was in contrast to the early Renaissance, which was financed by the Medici family and was centered in Florence. It preceded the early Renaissance and it represents the pinnacle of Renaissance, where the ideals of humanism were used in both sculptures and paintings. In this period, artists had mastered the technique of lined perspective and various other techniques of realism. Although the artists of this era were inclined to represent nature as closely as they could, they leaned towards beauty and wanted to create harmony than the effect of realism. It can be stated that the era saw the return of the Greek and Roman culture and art, as the artists sought to find better ways of portraying their works rather than simple replication. Some of these artists were known to bend the rules of reality slightly, such as Michelangelo in order to increase the power of expression on his works (Hibbard, 1965).
The study of the Greek’s culture and philosophy gave the secrets to the representations of the Human form and proportions, such as the straight nose and the elongated face. The era created a profession on its own that had its own character and staked claims by itself to others (Kleiner, 2010). This era sprung three of the most renowned artists: da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael. Due to the Greek philosophy, the idea of humanism was developed where more attention was paid to man than to God. The High Renaissance era has been associated with the glorification of man. They were glorifying the ideals of classical aesthetics. In their works, even where they had a religious scenario, it was seen to be more to the glorification of man than God. Some of the masterpieces of this era include the Sistine Chapel, Virgin of the Rocks, Sistine Madonna, among many others. Sculptures include the Pieta (1500, Rome) and the Statue of David (1501, Florence). Rome was essentially the capital of the renaissance period. The popes wanted to rival the city of Florence and reinforce the glory of Rome.
The church, being a major contributor, saw most of the works that remained of a religious genre. The high renaissance architecture works can be best defined and showcased in the works of Donato Bramante (1444-1514). It began with his Tempietto, which began in 1510 in Rome, as an attempt to reconcile Christianity and humanism principles. He was the leading architect of the High Renaissance. The Roman popes Julius II and Leo X gave home to various artists from Florence, Naples, and Milan, who found it hard to retain its high profile artists. Among them was Bramante, who was employed by Pope Julius II. He began the rebuilding of the Basilica and the Vatican, but would not live to see neither of its completion. Donato Bramante was born in Asdruvaldo in a well-to-do family. He was trained as a painter and his architectural skills were hidden behind his paintings.
His architectural influence could have been Francesco di Giorgio. His interest in architecture can be seen in his earliest work of the Palazzo del Podesta. He went to Milan to view the work on the cathedral. Here there was a diverse mix of talents from the many calibers of artists, since Milan was a large city. Milan did not have its own artists as those that were there had been brought in from other cities. This was a perfect location for budding artists such as Bramante. His most notable work in Milan, before he left for Rome, is the St. Maria Presso. His presence in Milan was of high importance as it led to the artistic development of the city over the years. In Rome, the appointment of Julius II as Pope saw the set up in Bramante’s work to a more mature level. In 1508, Rome began to take shape under the rule of Julius II and Bramante was the chief designer and planner.
There have been representations of the Statue of David over the years. Major artists that have done this are Donatello, Verrocchio, and Michelangelo. Each has done the statue at a different era. Donatello created his in the early renaissance period; Michelangelo did his in the high renaissance and Bernini in the baroque era. David by Donatello dates back to the fifteenth century. Made of bronze, it is recorded in history as being first presented in the courtyard of Medici during a wedding ceremony in the Palazzo. It sought to demonstrate the epic battle of David and Goliath. David was a popular figure in Florence at the time as he was in the Old Testament in the Bible. Donatello stands apart from the rest of the statues of David in various aspects. The bronze by Donatello has nudity that is not done by any other. He also uses the humanist approach in his attempt to bring out the representation. He gives balance and a softer stance to the gait that is the traditional male figure. This bronze was never placed on a pillar. It remains a one of a kind to date with nothing quite like it ever to be seen. The bronze is in many ways both a mystery and a contrast. It has David in a long hat that was associated with women in Florence; a feminine pose, long wavy locks that are feminine, slender arms and face, and male genitalia. David is not seen to be smiling at the slain Goliath but at his own body. This is the aspect of humanism characteristic in the early renaissance (Avery, 1997).
The statue that is the most famous today is the statue of David by Michelangelo. Commissioned in 1501, he uses marble and does not represent the victorious David in his statue. Instead he shows the young David before the battle. It may seem that he captured the moment when the giant Goliath was taunting the Israelites and he was making the decision to go out and defeat him. Michelangelo was influenced by Greek heroes, with one side being smooth and together, while the other side shows strength and movement. The statue represented strength and fury - some of the most predominant traits harbored by the heroes. The statue was placed in the town square. This era was during the scientific period. There is a trait of movement within them and it is not in a controlled manner. This lack of control is evident in the emotions that are theatrical as well.
Bernini’s era of baroque wanted the audience to be able to relate to the sculpture with both our bodies and our minds. His sculpture gives the image of a pitcher who is about to throw a fast ball. The baroque era uses diagonal lines. Unlike the high renaissance period that used the pyramids to show case immobility, the diagonal lines showed movement and some form of energy. He portrays David at the peak of his life. He is fighting with Goliath; with his sling shot, he is seen to gather force and speed that we can clearly read from his face, as he is set to hit the Philistine giant.
Bernini’s sculpture shows David and with his possessions, his harp, and the sling shot. His armor is around him at his feet. From the biblical story, it is said that David was small in stature and he was not accustomed to wearing armor and so when the king gave him one he sheds it off. He only has his sling shot as he attempts to kill the Philistine. The statue can be said to be a representation of the single second before he throws the stone. His body expresses the strain he is under, both physically and mentally, as he holds the fate of his people in his hands with that one shot. His pose is suggesting that he is prepared to throw an object; even his feet points to the direction in which he is about to move.
The harp at his feet is not a part of the biblical story, but Bernini used this as a metaphor to show David’s talents as a musician, which he had to give up when he goes to battle to fight the giant Goliath. The harp is only covered halfway; the story goes on to say that David does return to music after a while. The partial covering is to indicate that David does not entirely give up his passion for music. Bernini remains true to the biblical story of the battle between David and Goliath. According to the story, Goliath is a few paces from David and hence not included in the sculpture. Bernini uses the three items to demonstrate the crucial points in his life: the harp, the armor, and the sling shot. The harp is to show the young David, as a shepherd and a musician. He is young and innocent full of dreams and ambitions. All this he gives up on the battlefield, when he faces Goliath. He later uses the same harp to compose the book of psalms. The sling shot he uses to bring Goliath down, and hence he becomes a hero. Simple shepherd’s weapon brings down a Philistine champion.
The statue of David has Bernini’s own likeness, since he had an assistant holding a mirror to him as he completed the sculpture. In his explanation he said that he did this because his first major art piece should be done to be successful, and it would win him favor for time to come. The statue of David is a somewhat depiction of Bernini’s life. Both are young men (Bernini was 25 years) facing difficult situations that will shape their destinies and give them recognition for generations to come. Both are using their hands as tools of trade to aid in their success. As it is evident from many of Bernini’s statues, the figures are in the process of using physical strength.
Bernini’s David is different from previous works, since this sculpture is not immobile but engages with the environment around it. The factor of time is also differs between the artists. Michelangelo shows David preparing for the battle; Donatello and Verrocchio show him as victorious. Bernini shows David in the act of throwing the slingshot. This is a moment of tension and apprehension. Statues depicting throwing scenes were rare and so this was seen as unique in its light. Bernini uses space to create three dimensional arts, contrary to the earlier renaissance works that focused more on frontal art. Bernini allowed for one to walk around the sculpture and to take in all it is saying to them. The notion of the sculpture engaging with another entity is evident from the fact that David is seen to lean away from the stand; he is almost falling over the edge as he throws the slingshot. Bernini captures a moment in time that shows movement. The action of David leaning his sling shot back is both a still and an unbroken movement (Greenhalgh, 1982).
Bernini’s influence for the motion was present in the painting of Annibale Carracci’s fresco, were a stone was being thrown. Leornado da Vinci also uses his writing to try to portray a figure in a throwing motion. Bernini’s art was known for showcasing intense emotional states. For example, David is seen to contort his face because of determination and concentration. He is biting his lips to show aggression, as he anticipates the task ahead of him.
The baroque era saw a split in the church and the Counter Reformation by the Catholic Church; a campaign meant ensuring that the artists included some of the wonders of heaven and those of life, and that these invoked some emotions by those who saw them. Their works were supposed to strengthen the members of the church and remove the doubters. A brief history of the Counter Reformation dates back to the sixteenth century as a response to the Protestant reformation. It disliked the corruption and the desecration that was going on in the church. It encompassed four major elements: reconfiguration of ecclesiastical structure, religious orders, spiritual movements and political dimensions. This is what brought about the formation of seminaries, where they provided formal teaching for those priests who joined the church.
There was the formation of the Jesuit order - a conservative group tasked with the work of cleaning and revamping of the church. They worked with the people and not in seclusion as the monks. They provided counsel to the vices that had rocked the foundation of the church and threatened its demise. By restoring order and giving clarity to catholic laws and religion, they hoped to neutralize the Protestant movement and restore faith in the Catholic Church. It saw the rise of the 30 year war between both sides. Eventually the split became permanent with the Protestant church.
Bernini’s David was in accordance to the conditions set for the reformation by the church. As it used to be, many of the patrons in Italy were members of the clergy. They were the ones who commissioned the artists and so had an upper hand in the designs that were put up. They insisted that the artists have representations of God and his triumph over death. Bernini’s David was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese.
This was similar to the thoughts of St. Ignatius, who had suggested that art could be used to increase an individual’s devoutness by giving people a representation of the actual spiritual events that occurred in the course of time. Such representations could invoke various emotions from a person as they relate to the said events. As it was usual in the era of baroque, Bernini’s statue represents a mix of emotions. All the expressions read on David’s face, his posture, and his environment can literary put one at the battle front, and you can feel his desperation as he rushed forward and threw his sling at the giant Goliath. This is in contrast to the calmer David by Michelangelo and Donatello; it gives a sense of the tension that is described at that moment before the giant dies (Ackerman, 1994).
All the elements play together to create the statue that can be so well associated with the baroque era; that is full of energy and motion. We can see his transformation from a young boy to a man and later on to the king of Israel. In accordance to the story in the Bible, David was the youngest son of the shepherd Jesse, and he as his father was a shepherd. He is chosen to be a king as a shepherd by God when his prophet comes and anoints him with oil, as it was the case during those days. David is associated with bravery and humbleness, as it is evident in many of the accounts in the Bible, of which the most remarkable was the defeat of the Goliath - the giant Philistine. This happens during a period of war between the Israelites and the Philistines. Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, throws a challenge to the Israelites to find him an equal to fight with. David asks the king for permission to fight the giant. He does this with no armor but only with a stone and a sling shot. This action led to David’s rise to power as the king of Israel, his victory in many battles, and his fame throughout history. His accounts in the Bible are found in the books of Samuel, kings, and the chronicles of the Old Testament. Such a representation of the battle has significant effects on the viewer, which was the main point of the Counter Reformation.
The split in the church saw the Protestants head in a different direction that saw them use art not with religious teachings, but they sought to impact their followers with moral lessons. The baroque era saw the concept of using motion to create emotion. It came in about the same time with the discovery that the earth was in a constant motion. Thus, the artists of this era used energy and movement to create life in their works. The popularity of the baroque was a result of encouragement by the Catholic Church. The statue of David has effectively impressed visitors from all over the world and continues to do so today. It is a symbol of control and triumph, since David defeats Goliath and Israelites are finally in control of the land again.
In the 16th century, the Renaissance era in Italy reached almost unparalleled heights of cultural and scholarly achievements. The unstable political scene in Italy was the most suitable for the growth of the High Renaissance and Mannerism. The mannerism style had begun to show aspects that leant towards baroque. The high renaissance period brought with it other significant features to the era. It saw the rise of the strong center governments in Europe, for example, Francis I in France (in 1515) and Henry VIII in England (in 1509). In Italy it saw the shift of presence to Rome as a result of the papal presence in the city. This was also influenced by the rise to power of Julius II. Italy tried to balance Christianity and secularism. It ended up in a state where both completed each other, as they sought to teach morals and proper values to its citizens. The concentration of architecture moved to Rome from Florence in physical terms, and there was developed a search for some kind of an all incorporating experience as a result of the aesthetic characteristics. The most significant architects of that period were Donato Bramante, Andrea Palladio, and Michelangelo. Bramante, in his turn, worked on the Quattrocento self-awareness idea, which was transformed into an individual’s complex position perception in terms of frame and volume. In architecture, the space was perceived not as emptiness but as a part of the design. Donato Bramate inspired countless of other artists to further explore their works. By studying the philosophy and cultures of the Greeks, they were able to incorporate the aesthetics that had been used in ancient art into their works.
It is clear that Bernini’s version of David elicits much more emotion than the previous ones done in the years. The diagonal, which is the classic baroque feature, gives the sculpture motion of the sling shot and also clearly shows the presence of Goliath from the expressions of David’s face. It clearly presents what one would expect from a scene on the battle field, unlike the calm nature portrayed by both Michelangelo and Donatello. It tells a better story of the biblical hero at the climax of his exploit and has much more depth. The statue of David remains a pillar of recognition and a symbol of victory for the reformation that the Catholic Church underwent. It brought with it lots of questions and many people were seen to lose faith in the Catholic Church, but it had also positive influence on that era since the popes brought about the great works of art, such as the reconstruction of the St. Peter’s Basilica and Bernini’s statue of David.