Monday, February 23, 2009

David vs David

After a long hiatus, I shall return to Art.

First, a little background.

Standin' dudes

Alright. So here we see a very early version of the replication of the human image. I believe that the Sumerians made these statues for religious purposes, given that they were found near the Ziggurat of Ur. At this point, people made art for religious purposes. Early civilizations would use art to tell stories behind their mythology or to protect them from evil spirits. Art had a different purpose in these days. Art was not art as we see it now, art existed as an essential part of religion and life.

With art viewed in this light, it didn't advance very far. For generations of civilizations after this we see the same style of people just... well... standing. Changing style might change how the figurine worked. To make actual creative art influenced by religion might have been viewed as heresy. Figurines of humans would look straight ahead, supported by two legs, with their arms just dropped by their sides... no real expression on the face or the body language.

More standin' dudes
Complete with contrapposto
*sold separately

The Greeks decided to keep this aspect of art, but they added along with the mythological aspect the ability to advance in the methods. They created different mediums to tell their stories, and they created different ways to portray their stories on those mediums.

One of the added mediums is the one in the photo above: Bronze.

In the area of sculpture they added contrapposto. This made the look much more realistic. When people stand, they usually don't stand straight up on both their legs. People usually shift their weight onto one leg or the other. The Greeks noticed this and began to add the attribute to their work. Eventually, this stance became the standard.

Greek artists made the goal of art to replicate physical human nature along with the human image. However, they only went so far.

Then this guy got involved

Greek and Roman art influenced the Renaissance (obviously). But unlike the Greeks, the prevailing religion at the time of the Renaissance was Christianity. So, a flip took place between the emphasis on Greek Mythology to an emphasis on Christianity. Greek Mythology remained influential in art, but the people broadly followed Christianity.

Michelangelo created the sculpture of David to present the ultimate form of man. Many today still view this sculpture as the ultimate of human form. Michelangelo utilized contrapposto to further add a sense of reality to this form. But beyond the realistic representation, David isn't doing much. He's just kinda chillin.

It is here that I am reminded that artists
notice things in their daily lives
before they incorporate it into their art

Then Bernini came along and screwed up everyone's world. Starting at around age ten, he impressed even the Pope with his epicness (for lack of a better word) in many forms of art. He developed the ability to make marble look like actual flesh. He added indentations in the skin from a hand gripping across flesh on marble and pulled it off.

Marble sculptures of people grabbing people have appeared throughout history, but never with quite this much detail. Bernini took sculpture to a whole new level and then gave a subconscious challenge to Michelangelo when he made his very own sculpture of David.

Take that Michelangelo

Bernini took the extra step of venturing beyond contrapposto. He has David in the middle of attacking Goliath. He added an intense expression on his face as he is about to hurl a stone at a possibly over nine foot tall human being who thought he could get away insulting David's God for days after days.

His muscles are tense, his expression is not just intense but also concentrated, focused. He will achieve his goal. Bernini practically routes Michelangelo in the portrayal of David when it comes to expressing David as a person rather than form.

Bernini goes the extra mile of showing his form as well. With Michelangelo, David is the perfect form of a man. He has very little fat on him, very muscular, but relaxed at the same time. Whereas Bernini's version of David has a little weight on him, but every muscle present has purpose. Bernini's David is not about perfection, it conveys the story of David and allows us to jump into the moment just before the killing blow, when it could be argued that even David had no clue whether or not he would live or die.

I like Bernini's work because he not only shows us the story and physique of the human being, but he takes us into the moment of the story. He grips us with his image and makes us a part of the sculpture. I cannot help but jump into the situation when I see Bernini's work. With David, I am there, and I have just as much anticipation as the Jews who watched on when the story actually happened.

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