Donatello's bronze statue of David (circa 1440s) is notable as the first unsupported standing work in bronze cast during the Renaissance period, and the first freestanding nude male sculpture made since antiquity. It depicts the young David with an enigmatic smile, posed with his foot on Goliath's severed head just after killing the giant. The youth is standing nude, apart from a laurel-topped hat and boots, bearing the sword of Goliath. There are no documents related to the commission or production of the bronze David. The earliest secure reference to the statue occurred in 1469, when it was described at the center of the courtyard of the Medici Palace in Florence. The Medici were exiled from Florence in 1494, and the statue was moved to the courtyard of the Palazzo della Signoria (the marble David was already in the palazzo). It was moved to the Pitti Palace in the 17th century, to the Uffizi in 1777, and then finally, in 1865, to the Bargello museum, where it remains today. According to Vasari, the statue stood on a column designed by Desiderio da Settignano in the middle of the courtyard of the Palazzo Medici; an inscription seems to have explained the statue's significance as a political monument: "Victor est quisquis patriam tuetur/Frangit immanis Deus hostis iras/En puer grandem domuit tiramnum/Vincite cives" (The victor is whoever defends the fatherland. God crushes the wrath of an enormous foe. Behold! A boy overcame a great tyrant. Conquer, o citizens.) Although a political meaning for the statue is widely accepted, exactly what that meaning is has been a matter of considerable debate among scholars. Most scholars assume the statue was commissioned by Cosimo de' Medici, but the date of its creation is unknown and widely disputed; suggested dates vary from the 1420s to the 1460s (Donatello died in 1466), with the majority opinion recently falling in the 1440s, when the new Medici Palace designed by Michelozzo was under construction. The iconography of the bronze David follows that of the marble David: a young hero stands with sword in hand, the decapitated head of his enemy at his feet. Visually, however, this statue is startlingly different. Naked, but for hat and shoes, David is both physically frail and strikingly effeminate. His physique, which Mary McCarthy called "a transvestite's and fetishist's dream of alluring ambiguity," contrasted with the absurdly large sword by his side, shows that David has conquered Goliath not by physical prowess, but through the will of God. The boy's nakedness further enhances the idea of the presence of God, contrasting the youth with the heavily-armored giant. David is presented uncircumcised, which is generally customary for male nudes in Italian Renaissance art.
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