Reflections on Verrocchio’s Heroic David
Sara Morris Swetcharnik, circa February 2004
David and the Head of Goliath, c. 1466
Bronze Sculpture by Andrea del Verrocchio, Height: 47-1/4 inches
on loan from the National Museum of the Bargello, Florence to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. until the 21st of March 2004.
Ms. Swetcharnik writes this hoping that her words also meet their mark. And if they do not you obviously need to re-read the article, visit the National Gallery of Art to see the sculpture and/or try a cup of the National Gallery of Art Café’s Coffee. Verrocchio's bronze sculpture of David is at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Verrocchio (c. 1435-1488) was a leading Italian Renaissance artist who had a profound influence on art. In this well-sculpted figure Verrocchio achieved a convincing image of the heroic and legendary young David.
Can there be any doubt that Verrocchio held the familiar story-image of David in his mind? The biblical account describes the slight, fine-featured, ruddy, youngest son as the one chosen to be anointed by God, enduring taunts by older brothers to just go home and tend the family sheep. When his nation’s army cowered before a giant, it proved adequate that God had given this delicately-built youth the opportunity to develop skills used to protect sheep from preying animals. The brave David armed only with his slingshot and stones defended his nation and killed the giant. I should clarify that David was not just a little bully that went around picking on any innocent nine foot giant but that this giant was actually threatening the nation with an invading army behind him.
This awed many people who sang praises for David: rumors also started that he should be given tax-free status. Should it be obvious why Saul, the King of this young man’s country, held a range of emotions toward the new warrior? King Saul employed David with duties as armor bearer and court musician. Under Saul’s watchful eye, sometimes David’s harp music was critiqued as soothing and sometimes Saul would simply throw his spear. David showed wisdom in running from such dangers and for this and other reasons was eventually crowned King.
David, like many, was not unfamiliar with sin which apparently leads to many additional and undesirable complications. During David’s many subsequent poetical pleas, did God and man see his heart convincing one and all he was not the worse option for that plot?
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
From a Psalm of David, No. 51 verses 8-12 (New International Version).
Ms. Swetcharnik writes this hoping that her words also meet their mark. And if they have not you obviously need to re-read the article, visit the National Gallery to see the sculpture and/or try another cup of the NGA Café’s Coffee. If you can’t make it to the NGA exhibit or Café and still have any doubts, then at least try another cup of coffee and reread the article wherever you are.