Maggie A's Meanderings




 Jan 13, 2013

Michelangelo's Nude David

Face of Michelangelo's David sculptureThe expression on Michelangelo's David has always puzzled me. Why I wondered does he look so intent, yet there's worry, maybe even fear, in that face? Recently I read an article answering that mystery and, apparently, it's a theory that's been around for a while. The theory is that Michelangelo was portraying David as he was confronting Goliath. 

That was an explanation that would never have
occurred to me. What with the nudity, I had always thought this was supposed to be a statue of David simply done in the classic nude style of ancient Greece. So why would he be looking worried? I just never imagined it portrayed David going into battle. Though that explanation certainly does explain the worry and fear. And the, uh, shrinkage. Because even though in the Bible David acted like he was confident, a teenage boy facing a giant almost 10 feet tall (6.5 cubits = 9'9") ought to have been a little worried and a little afraid at the moment he's putting his boasts into action. But the explanation brings up another puzzle as to how I can see the shrinkage. In other the words, why the hell is that statute buck naked?

If the ancient Jews fought battles in the nude.............
1. The Bible never mentioned it.
2. It should have.
Imagine how popular illustrated Bibles would have become.

But, honestly, I have a hard time picturing armies of naked Jews. I mean look at David in the statue. The kid doesn't even have a place to put his stones (for his slingshot). Even in the Mars novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs where everyone lets everything hang out, even if the dangly bits weren't covered, the people wore leather harnesses to which they hooked their weapons and other things.

I just can't imagine any ancient Jews fighting their battles buck naked. But, obviously, Michelangelo could...........which only gives credence to the stories I've heard about Michelangelo. That he was homosexual or at least bisexual. Because any guy who's picturing young David going to do battle with the giant-sized, greatest warrior of the invading Philistine army and who pictures David as doing this in the nude at the very least has suppressed homosexual longings.

Now I know in the Bible that David removes the armor that King Saul had given him. But nowhere does it say that David was naked under that armor. In fact, the Bible makes it quite clear that David takes off the armor while he's still with Saul and goes out as a shepherd. Now I've heard some funky things happen between shepherds and their favorite sheep, but I'm pretty sure that when they're herding sheep they would have been wearing some kind of tunic. So that's how I've always pictured David as he went out to battle, as wearing his simple shepherd's tunic:

I Samuel 17: 38-40:
38 And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.
39 And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.
40 And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.

The sequence of events that I get from that is David's standing there in his shepherd's tunic. Saul comes with armor which David puts on over his tunic. (I'll admit I don't know a lot about the wearing of armor, but what little I do know has people wearing armor over some form of clothing. The Romans wore their armor over tunics.) Then David removes the armor leaving him still dressed in his shepherd's tunic. And off he goes to taunt Goliath with what he's going to do with Goliath's dead body after he opens a can of God-powered whup-ass on Goliath.

But in doing some quick research on this topic, I find there's a whole school of thought that has David being naked when he fought Goliath. That there have been all these men throughout history who imagined David naked under that armor, no doubt picturing his glistening, youthful body as he strips off the armor, just makes me think that Michelangelo wasn't the only one with homosexual longings, suppressed or otherwise.

Michelangelo's David with sheep

Close-up of David by Michelangelo (cropped from Image:Dithering algorithms.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
David statue By Jebulon (Own work) [CC0 - Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Additional reading - David: A New Perspective by J. Huston McCulloch

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