Advent Art, Day 13: The Boy-King of Bethlehem


About the Art: Michelangelo, David, 1501-04, Marble statue, Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence, Italy. Click here to learn more about this iconic statue.

In 1464, the city of Florence commissioned sculptor Agostino de Duccio to scuplt a statue of David to be part of a series of twelve Old Testament figures begun by Donatello in 1410. The city brought in a block of marble from the alps in northern Tuscany and Duccio began his work. But Duccio only got as far as roughing out the legs before his death in 1466. Ten years later, Antonio Rossellino was brought in to pick up where Duccio left off, but for reasons unknown, he was soon removed from the project, and the block of marble sat unfinished for the next 25 years.

In 1501, Michelangelo convinced the city officials that he should be the one to finish the statue. When he began his work, his design had to accommodate the false starts of two previous sculptors, which would determine, to some degree, how the figure would have to stand. Michelangelo worked on David for the next two years, producing one of the world’s most iconic works of art.

Michelangelo famously said, “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”

The figure Michelangelo saw in this block of marble is at the same time vulnerable in his nakedness and imposing in his size. One hand grips a sling, ready for action, the other hand is relaxed, cradling a stone.

The detail in David’s hands, his torso, his eyes, his posture, and the overall composition are masterful and confounding. The more time you spend studying this statue, the more impossible the nearly fifteen foot tall masterpiece becomes.

In 1504, the statue was placed in Florence’s public square, outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of the city’s civic government. The young shepherd’s battle-ready stare was turned toward the Goliath of Rome.

(The excerpt under the heading “Consider” is from my book, The Advent of the Lamb of God.)


“When they met down by the Brook of Elah, David slung his stone straight and true, but it was the Lord who drove it squarely into the forehead of Goliath.

“This was a moment that not only turned the tide of the war, but fixed the nation’s attention on this brave shepherd-warrior. Saul took David into his house. The king put the boy in charge of the troops, and David was victorious wherever he fought.

“David was fast becoming famous. When he passed through the streets of a town, the people would come to get a look at him, and the women would sing songs of adoration. ‘Saul has struck down his thousands and David his ten thousands!’

“Of course, this got under Saul’s skin. David may have been a mighty warrior, but Saul was the king. The seeds of contempt found fertile soil, and they grew and grew until even the sight of David made the king want to kill him—a desire he attempted to satisfy on many occasions.”[1]


One of the primary reasons Saul despised David so much was because he knew his position would soon be handed over to this new king. It is a classic story of ambition and pride turning into resentment and hate. Are there places in your life where pride has led you to resentment? Are any of those unresolved? If so, what would it look like to seek peace?

It is not David’s power that guarantees that he will become king. It is the will of God. Where in your life are you cooperating with the will of God most faithfully right now? Where are you fighting it?


[1] Ramsey, Russ. The Advent of the Lamb of God. IVP, 2018. pg. 86.

Michelangelo's David's Hand
Michelangelo's David Perspective
Russ Ramsey
Russ is a pastor and author living in Nashville, Tennessee. His books include Struck: One Christian's Reflections on Encountering Death (IVP, 2017), and the Retelling the Story Series, featuring The Advent of the Lamb of God (IVP, 2018). His personal mission is to communicate the truths of Scripture in accessible ways to people in process. Follow Russ on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.

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