If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:5:01

Video transcript

we're in the Galleria Borghese here in Rome looking at one of several sculptures that Bernini as a young man in his twenties made for Cardinal Borghese here in this fabulously beautiful villa and this is the sculpture of David so the story comes from the Old Testament and the young man who will become King David he's a shepherd and the Israelites are in battle with the Philistines well I until man Goliath is so powerful that nobody wants to meet him directly but David takes off his armor and goes to meet him not even armed with a sword he gathers some stones and he goes to face Goliath and it is God on the side of the Israelites david has that behind him when he goes to face and defeat Goliath which he does with one stone from the slingshot which hits Goliath between the eyes and fails him David then takes the giant sword and severs his head but this is the moment of action itself when most people think of a sculpture of David they think of Michelangelo's high Renaissance sculpture and that dates to the early 1500 so here we are more than a hundred years later and we've moved from the high Renaissance into the period of the Baroque Bernini knew all about Michelangelo's triumphant sculpture David and it informs this but Bernini is making this sculpture his own well we're in a very different moment in history Michelangelo's sculpture during the high Renaissance was looking back to ancient Greek and Roman art this interest in classical antiquity this moment of humanism in the Renaissance of idealizing the human body creating a stable columnar figure making the human body seem almost like a classical column in its purity in its elegance Michelangelo's David has tension in the muscles and a lot of tension in the face and a sense of drama in the face as he stares down Goliath but it's as though that drama that was just incipient in Michelangelo is really here Unleashed by Bernini he's like a spring that's about to unwind Michelangelo gives us the moment before the fight with Goliath and Bernini is giving us the moment where David is about to release the slingshot and kill this giant of a man Goliath in fact some people have said that they don't want to stand in front of the sculpture because it looks like that slingshot might hit them Bernini is able to activate the space around the stone that's one of the big differences between the high Renaissance and the Baroque with Michelangelo's David we are very separate we contemplate his ideal beauty but here we're emotionally bodily involved look at the torsion in David's body the way he's twisted and is about to spend that rocket on Alicia the body crosses itself which is not something we see in Michelangelo's David and the body forms this diagonal line that has so much energy look at the knit brow of his focused attention look at the way that the lips are pressed together making so clear his intense concentration and you can feel that he's gathering every ounce of strength that he has to throw this don't he's got God behind him but he's still using all of his strength I always find myself wanting to say you can feel it when I describe Baroque art and I think that's the whole idea of Baroque art it is a direct confrontation with the narrative it is meant to bring us into the story and Bernini does this so well that we forget that this is stoned so that emotional involvement that almost bodily involvement where we almost want to duck out of the way is so typical of Baroque art this moment in the 1600s when the Catholic Church is using art as a way to affirm and strengthen the faith of believers that was a major tenant of the Counter Reformation of the Council of Trent that suggested that art was didactic that art could be a teaching tool to help deepen one's faith teaching is a funny word because it sounds so distant but the art of the Baroque it doesn't feel like a lecture it feels like we're being brought in it feels seductive well look at the naturalism here look at his understanding of the human body of its musculature of the skeletal structure of even in this enormous the complex pose this is an artist who has taken all of the lessons of the high Renaissance but activated them and turn them to a purpose that even Michelangelo I think could not have predicted when I look at Michelangelo's David I feel as I'm looking at a figure that is superhuman too beautiful to be someone that you would pass on the street but Bernini's David looks like a man he is depicted naturalistically but he's not idealized like a god that is such a high Renaissance characteristic but the naturalism that you're talking about we see in Caravaggio we see here in Bernini it's very much a characteristic of the Baroque these are artists that bring the Bible into our world [Music]