David and Goliath, by Michelangelo
David fills the role of Zechariah's shepherd, and is, indeed, the ancestor of the Good Shepherd. Vigerio celebrates the great victory of the shepherd boy in the Christian Decachord; his beheading
of Goliath had from the days of St. Augustine signified Christ's triumph over Satan. In the corner spandrel Michelangelo allows us to look into the camp of the Philistines, symbolized by a single
tent partially seen, and two dim heads at either corner. The terrified giant awaiting decapitation and the heroic youth crowd into the foreground in a composition whose curves echo and support
the curves of the frame in a towering mass of figures reminiscent of the arrangement of the Doni Madonna. David strides over the prone and helpless Goliath, his huge raised sword reminiscent of
the memorable Judith by Donatello, which stood in the courtyard of the Medici Palace when the boy Michelangelo lived there and
which, after the expulsion of the Medici in 1494, had been placed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, where indeed it still stands. The straddling position of victor over vanquished was
to be repeated in the colossal sculpture of Victory intended for the Tomb of Julius II, now by a curious coincidence also in the Palazzo Vecchio, as well as in a number of drawings dating
from Michelangelo's last years.
The shapes are so powerful, and command the entire space with such authority, as to suggest that Michelangelo painted them after the somewhat more tentative Deluge. The color is kept fairly subdued compared with that of the prophets and sibyls against their pale gray marble thrones, but it still contains great brilliance in the costumes. David is clad in sky blue with softer blue lights, and an unexpected olive cloak floats from his shoulders, while Goliath appears in a brighter green doublet, now heavily oxidized, and gray-blue hose. His parti-colored sleeves are especially brilliant - white on the outside with gold stripes and orange underneath. These bright tones are softened by the rich play of siena, ocher, and terra verde in the earth, with dark gray shadows, and by the pale and darker grays of the tent.