Reflecting on the Youthful David
Andrea del Castagno’s The Youthful David aka David with the Head of Goliath is truly a unique work of art. It is one of a kind in that it is the only painted shield that can be attributed to a master artist (Art in Tuscany, 2012). The artist’s chosen subject is the biblical story of the young Sheppard boy David who fights and defeats the giant Philistine warrior Goliath. This masterpiece was done in tempera on leather over a wooden shield. It is a product of the early Renaissance, ca. 1450. The shield measures 115.5 x 76.5 cm over all width at the top and 115.5 x 40.6 cm over all width at the bottom (National Gallery of Art, 2012). The Youthful David was probably commissioned by a wealthy patron to be carried in a parade, either civic or religious, or as “a sign of authority for a citizen-governor.” Usually, this type of shield was adorned with a family’s coat of arms, not an artist’s masterpiece, making Andrea del Castagno’s shield exceptionally rare (National Gallery of Art, 2012). At the time this painting was done, Florence was the smallest major power in Italy (Fiero, 2013); a seemingly easy target. This shield was to serve as a form of protest or warning from the people of Florence to Italy’s giants. The painting’s message was clear; not to underestimate them less the more powerful suffer Goliath’s fate (Art in Tuscany, 2012). In essence, this was their stone in a sling aimed at the Pope, Aragon (the king of Naples), Ludovico Sforza (the duke of Milan) and the doge of Venice. Painted during the early Renaissance, Andrea del Castagno’s The Youthful David exhibits the stylization and human ideal that epitomizes art from that era, as well as other various aspects typical of early Renaissance art. David is depicted as youthful and serene, but in action. He is going through the motion of swinging his loaded sling, his hair and clothing rippling in the wind. Goliath’s grotesque, severed head lies at David’s feet. The coupling of...
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