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Gian Lorenzo Bernini, David, 1623-24, marble (Galleria Borghese, Rome)

Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris and Dr. Steven Zucker

Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.
Video transcript
Man: So the story of David is is Biblical, its Old Testament. Woman: This is David who will become King David. Man: And this is the story of David and Goliath that's actually being represented here. Woman: Yeah. Although we only see David, obviously. [laughter] Man: Although, he sees Goliath. Woman: He does here. He clearly see Goliath. And he's aming the slingshot, the stone, right at him. The story is that the Isrealites are endangered by the Phillistines who have this giant of a man who's... Man: Who terrifies everybody. Woman: Who terrifies everybody and the Isrealites are sure their will be defeated. Because Goliath, this giant. Man: Except this boy, here represented as a young man. Woman: Says, well let me go, I'll, I'll face him. Ill face the giant. And...well..pftp [they say] you cant do that! Your just a boy! And they give him lots of armor to put on so hes safe when he faces Goliath. And he takes off his armor. And says "aw I dont need this armor." And he faces Goliath and defeats him with a single blow. And of course it was not the blow at all really. Its the power of God thats behind David It's one of those "you got God on your side you dont really need anything else" stories. Man: That's the tough subjects to take on. Man and woman: After Michelangelo. Man: After Donetello. And unlike the Michealangelo where we can see the contour of the body almost uninterupted. Here the contour is crossed and crossed again and crossed again by his arm. By the line of his neck, by the cloth. By the sling that he has across his chest. And so there's this sort of hightened spiralling of the body. Woman: Kind of forceful diagonal and twisting simultaneously. The tension in the rope as he is preparing to throw the slingshot. You feel that same tension in the twisting of his body. Man: It's true. He's almost like a spring, wound up ready to release. Woman: Right I mean look at him. His face is such incredible determination. Concentration to it. Man: And actually, look at the way he is biting his lips. It's just this wonderful expression. Woman: And and pushing his eyebrows together. There is a kind of psychological insight I always see in Bernini. And look at how hes made this lovely shadows in the rib cage and in the abdomin. Really paying attention to the realism of the body but this is a kind of realism as opposed to the idealism of the Renassiance. And so in a way that is often said about the Baroque. We feel this especially with David, we feel it in his body We feel that tension and concentration as opposed to this sort of distant contemplativeness that feel with the Michelangelo. Man: The more universal the more eternal qualities that we associate with the high Reniassance. Thats right, this is much more momentary. Woman: And he moves out into our space. You know he twists. You almost like you want to duck out of the way. Man: It's true. And its kind of a visual tension that is constructed both through the actual physical form but also through the treatment of the surface. Woman: Im almost seeing Baroque painting here in the use of light and shadow. Shadow across his neck. A deep shadow on one side of his face Illumination on the other. Of course it depends on how he's lit. But the way the body is twisting against itself. These areas of deep shadow against illumination. Man: Absolutely. And so there is a drama in the lighting. Man: Important to note, even here, even in the free standing sculpture I think you can see his understanding of space. Understanding of the space around him. It's not only that he is defining light, hes defining the space around the sculpture. Almost as if it is a kind of architecture of the immediate surrounding environment. [Music]