Art History Lab

Bernini’s David: A Baroque Masterpiece of Emotional Intensity

The Baroque period, which lasted from the early 17th century to the mid-18th century, marked a significant shift in the art world. Baroque art was characterized by grandeur, richness, and physicality.

This style of art aimed to evoke an emotional response from the viewer by creating an intense, dramatic atmosphere. In this article, we will focus on one of the most famous artworks from the Baroque period – Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s David Statue.

Bernini’s David Statue stands tall at Galleria Borghese in Rome, Italy. It is a three-dimensional sculpture that depicts David in the moment just before he takes down the giant Philistine Goliath.

The statue is the perfect representation of Baroque art style, which aimed to create an illusion of movement, emotions, grandeur, and passion. Bernini used his sculpting skills to create a masterpiece that draws the viewer in and captures their attention.


Bernini’s David Statue was not just created out of thin air, it was influenced by many great artists before him. Bernini had many artistic influences, including Donatello, Verrocchio, Michelangelo, Hellenistic, Borghese Gladiator, Carracci, Leonardo da Vinci, and Discobolus.

Bernini drew inspiration from classical art, ancient Greek and Roman sculptures, and contemporary artists.

Creation and Location

Bernini’s David Statue was created in 1623 and is located in Galleria Borghese, Rome. It is a life-sized sculpture carved out of marble.

The sculpture was commissioned by Cardinal Scipione Borghese, who was Bernini’s patron at the time. The statue is one of the most famous sculptures in the world and has attracted millions of visitors to Galleria Borghese.

Subject Matter

Bernini’s David Statue depicts a well-known biblical story that tells of a young shepherd boy, David, who defeats the giant Philistine, Goliath. David is depicted with a sling in his left hand, while his right hand is tense, ready to release the rock that will take down Goliath.

Bernini captures the tension and excitement of the moment, making the viewer feel as if they are witnessing the event first hand.

Style and Composition

Bernini’s David Statue is a perfect example of Baroque art style. The sculpture is full of motion, energy, and realism.

The composition is detailed, with each body part intricately carved. The statue features David, a young boy who is depicted with great physical strength and muscularity.

The folds in David’s clothing are carved to perfection, and the hairstyle of the statue is also noteworthy. The statue is composed in such a way that it creates an illusion of motion.

Bernini expertly achieved this by creating an invisible force that seems to push David forward. This creates a sense of anticipation in the viewer, making them feel as though they are about to witness the moment when David takes down Goliath.

The statue also features a high degree of emotional intensity and drama, capturing the feelings of the characters and conveying them to the viewer.

The Artist

Gian Lorenzo Bernini was a master sculptor of the Baroque period. He was born in Naples in 1598 and worked primarily in Rome.

Bernini was a talented artist who was known for his ability to create realistic and emotional sculptures. He was also an artist who was known for his use of light and shadow, which gave his sculptures an extra layer of depth and complexity.

Bernini’s David Statue is a testament to his skills as a sculptor. It captures the essence of Baroque art style and creates an intense, dramatic atmosphere that draws the viewer in.

The statue also highlights Bernini’s ability to create sculptures that are full of motion, emotion, and drama.


In conclusion, Bernini’s David Statue is an outstanding work of art that represents the Baroque period perfectly. The statue is one of the most famous sculptures in the world and has captured the imagination of millions of viewers.

Bernini’s use of motion, emotion, and drama in the sculpture makes it a masterpiece that is unique to its time. The statue will continue to inspire and captivate people for generations to come.


Gian Lorenzo Bernini was a renowned sculptor during the Baroque period. He was known for his exceptional talent in creating realistic and emotional sculptures that captured the essence of his subjects.

Bernini’s works were highly sought after by those who could afford it, and he was often commissioned to create sculptures for important patrons. One of Bernini’s most significant patrons was Cardinal Scipione Borghese, a member of the wealthy and influential Borghese family.

Cardinal Borghese was a notable art collector who had an exquisite taste for art. He commissioned Bernini to work on several projects, including the Apollo and Daphne sculpture, which was created for the Borghese residence.

Production of David Statue

The production of Bernini’s David Statue was a result of his contract with Cardinal Scipione Borghese. Bernini’s receipts show that he received 450 scudi for the sculpture, which was a considerable amount of money at the time.

The statue took seven months to complete, beginning in mid-1623 and finishing in early 1624. Bernini was not without a patron during the production of the David Statue, as Cardinal Borghese secured these lucrative contracts for him.

However, it is important to note that during its creation, Bernini would have answered to people beyond Cardinal Borghese. Pope Urban VIII was a patron of Borghese himself, Bernini’s employer.

Subject Matter

The subject matter of Bernini’s David Statue is the biblical story of David and Goliath. The story goes that the Israelites and Philistines were in conflict, and Goliath, a giant Philistine, challenged the Israelites to send out their best warrior to face him.

David, a teenage shepherd, stepped forward and offered to fight Goliath. Despite being the underdog, David defeated Goliath by hitting him with a rock from his sling.

Bernini’s David Statue depicts David at the moment just before he releases the rock that will slay Goliath. The statue shows David with his sling, his body tense with anticipation.

While Goliath is not depicted in the statue, his presence is implied through the armor that David is shown standing on. This creates a sense of tension in the viewer, as they know what is about to happen and are waiting for the moment where David takes down Goliath.

David is also shown carrying a harp in the sculpture, which is an allusion to his musical abilities. It was believed that David was a skilled musician and poet, and his harp symbolizes his artistic and spiritual prowess.

In addition to the literal depiction of David’s victory over Goliath, the statue is also an allegory for the triumph of good over evil. David represents the virtuous and noble, while Goliath symbolizes the wicked and corrupt.

The statue, therefore, serves as a reminder for people to stand up for what is right and fight evil when necessary.


In conclusion, Bernini’s David Statue is an impressive work of art that tells a powerful story. The sculpture is a testament to Bernini’s talent as a sculptor and his ability to create works of art that evoke strong emotions.

The story of David and Goliath depicted in the statue is a reminder of the importance of standing up for what is right, even in the face of adversity. The statue continues to captivate viewers to this day and is a testament to the enduring quality of Baroque art.


Bernini’s David Statue was undoubtedly influenced by the Renaissance depictions of David, particularly those created by Michelangelo, Donatello, and Verrocchio. Michelangelo’s David, created in the early 16th century, is a pinnacle of Renaissance art.

It depicts David with a determined expression, his body full of tension as he anticipates his battle with Goliath. Donatello’s David, created in the 15th century, is a more youthful and effeminate depiction of the young hero.

Verrocchio’s David, created in the late 15th century, shows David in a more contemplative pose, with a languid expression on his face and his sling set aside. While Bernini’s David Statue shares certain similarities with these Renaissance works, including David’s muscularity and the presence of a sling, it is unique in several ways.

One notable feature is the way the statue interacts with its surroundings. Bernini placed the statue in an alcove, with the light coming in from the left side.

This creates a play of light and shadow on the statue that accentuates David’s movement and emotional intensity. Another unique feature of Bernini’s David Statue is the way it captures David’s rage.

While the Renaissance depictions of David show the young hero with a more calm and determined expression, Bernini’s sculpture shows him in a fit of fury. His face is contorted with rage, and his body is full of movement and tension.

Style and Composition

Bernini’s David Statue is an excellent example of Baroque sculpture. Baroque art characterized by grandeur, richness, and physicality.

It aimed to create an emotional response in the viewer by evoking an intense, dramatic atmosphere. Baroque sculpture is notable for its frontal presentation, three-dimensional quality, and use of space.

Bernini’s David Statue is no different, as it features a frontal presentation of the young hero. The statue has a strong sense of three-dimensionality, with each body part intricately carved and placed to create a real sense of movement and emotion.

Bernini also made excellent use of space in the sculpture, with David shown walking and poised to strike. One unique aspect of the statue’s composition is the way Bernini played with the viewer’s perspective.

The statue is designed to be viewed from multiple angles, and as the viewer moves around it, the perspective shifts, and David seems to come to life. This creates an illusion of movement and makes the sculpture seem more lifelike.

The statue also draws inspiration from Albrecht Drer’s Bellicose Man. Bernini used the head-to-body ratio and lion’s face of Drer’s work in his depiction of David.

This creates a sense of realism and intensity that is unique to Baroque art.


In conclusion, Bernini’s David Statue is unique in the world of art. It draws inspiration from the Renaissance depictions of David while bringing something new to the table.

Bernini’s use of light and shadow, perspective, and emotional intensity make the statue come to life. Its position in the alcove and its interaction with its surroundings make it seem as though it is a part of the real world, blurring the line between reality and art.

The unique qualities of Bernini’s David Statue make it a true masterpiece of Baroque art.

The Artist

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the mastermind behind the David Statue, was a multi-talented artist who excelled in various artistic fields. While he is primarily known for his sculptures, Bernini also made significant contributions to architecture, metalwork, and theatre sets.

His artistic abilities were diverse, and he approached each medium with the same level of skill and creativity. Bernini’s sculptures, including the David Statue, were characterized by their emotional depth and acute realism.

He had an exceptional ability to capture human emotions and translate them into stone. The David Statue is a prime example of Bernini’s skill in creating sculptures that convey a range of emotions, from the intensity of rage to the determination and bravery of David.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What weapon does David hold in Bernini’s statue?

In Bernini’s David Statue, David is depicted holding a slingshot. This was the weapon he used to defeat the giant Philistine, Goliath, in the biblical story.

The slingshot was a common weapon used by shepherds at the time and was chosen by Bernini to represent David’s humble origins and resourcefulness. 2.

How tall is the David Statue? The David Statue by Gian Lorenzo Bernini stands at a height of approximately 170 cm or 5.6 feet.

This life-sized sculpture allows viewers to engage with the artwork on a human scale, enhancing the sense of realism and creating a more intimate connection between the viewer and the sculpture. 3.

How does Bernini’s David Statue compare to classical Baroque works? Bernini’s David Statue is an excellent representation of the characteristics commonly associated with Baroque art, such as dynamism and mental strain.

Unlike classical sculptures that often portrayed idealized figures, Bernini’s work emphasizes the intense emotions and physicality of his subjects. The David Statue showcases the intricate details, lifelike textures, and exaggerated movements that became synonymous with Bernini’s artistic style.

Bernini’s sculptures, including the David Statue, stood out from other Baroque works due to their exceptional level of realism and the profound emotional impact they had on viewers. His ability to capture the human form and imbue his sculptures with intense emotions made him one of the most celebrated artists of the Baroque period.


Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s artistic genius extended beyond his sculpture of the David Statue. His wide range of talents, from his intricate metalwork to his innovative architectural designs, showcased his versatility and creativity.

Bernini’s sculptures were known for their emotional depth and acute realism, captivating viewers and eliciting strong emotional responses. Understanding the frequently asked questions surrounding the David Statue adds even more intrigue to this renowned artwork.

From the weapon David wields, the slingshot, to the height of the sculpture itself, approximately 170 cm, each detail contributes to the overall composition and impact of the artwork. In the broader context of Baroque art, Bernini’s works, including the David Statue, exemplify the dynamism and mental strain commonly associated with this period.

Bernini’s ability to bring his sculptures to life, eliciting a range of emotions and capturing the essence of his subjects, sets his work apart from classical Baroque art. Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s contribution to the art world continues to be celebrated and revered.

His works, including the David Statue, serve as a testament to his artistic brilliance and enduring legacy. In conclusion, Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s David Statue stands as a masterpiece of Baroque art, showcasing his exceptional talent and innovative approach.

Influenced by Renaissance depictions of David and featuring unique elements, such as interactive surroundings and intense emotional depth, Bernini’s sculpture captivates viewers and blurs the line between reality and art. With its dynamic composition and acute realism, the statue exemplifies the characteristics of Baroque sculpture.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s contributions to the art world, including the David Statue, continue to inspire and leave a lasting impression on viewers, reminding us of the power of art to evoke emotions and tell captivating stories. The David Statue serves as a reminder to stand up for what is right and represents the triumph of good over evil.

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