Is Michelangelo's David right handed or left handed?
October 27, 2022 4:52 PM   Subscribe

I saw the thing in person a month ago yet there was conflicting information. Googling gives me conflicting information. This AskMe, when complete, will hold the answer. Art majors and historians from here on out will reference it.

Basically I need to know how his sling works. I need to know this by Friday afternoon.

If he's right handed, it would make sense that he's holding the pouch and stone in his left hand and he would let go of the pouch with his left hand, twirl it around with his right, let go, and bob's your uncle.

If he's left handed, like our guide told us, it would make less sense. I'm told the statue captures David just as he's sizing up Goliath and about to swing his sling around, but the position his left arm is in doesn't seem like he'd get a good wind up.

If he were about to throw a baseball, he'd be in the correct position for a right hander. 'cept he'd also probably be wearing pants.

Ok, folks. Righty or lefty? One hand is holding the pouch of the sling, the other is holding the handle. Which is it?

Art is my passion.
posted by bondcliff to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There's a statue of David by Bernini (cant link rn) that is a more active pose and may answer your question.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:22 PM on October 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Anecdata, but we have replica slings and ancient projectiles at the museum where I work. For myself and other right-handed people who handle these objects, it does indeed feel most natural to secure the finger loops on the right hand first, hold the sling in the left palm to load, and then drop it or transfer it to the right hand to twirl and throw. This is consistent with what I have seen done by current users of sling-style weapons, like the gofan.
posted by notquitemaryann at 5:40 PM on October 27, 2022 [4 favorites]

If it helps, which features this picture.

Michaelangelo's David ( has the pouch in his left hand, and nothing in the right.
posted by adekllny at 6:05 PM on October 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: has the pouch in his left hand, and nothing in the right.

Ahhh, but there is something in his right hand. Perhaps it's just the end of the sling. Our guide said he was holding a rock in his right hand. It wasn't so clear to me.

To be clear, I'm specifically asking about the sling as depicted on Michelangelo's David. Even if every other statue or biblical reference depicts him as a left hander, Mike's David is the only one I care about.
posted by bondcliff at 6:11 PM on October 27, 2022 [2 favorites]

Michaelangelo's David ( has the pouch in his left hand, and nothing in the right.

There's not a good easily google-able photo of it, but you can just about make out that that is not the case in image 8 in the gallery here.
posted by juv3nal at 6:12 PM on October 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This review by the art historian Alexander Nagel notes of Michelangelo's David:

His right hand is outsize, a reference to the longstanding gloss on the meaning of David’s name as ‘fortis manu, sive desiderabilis’ (‘strong of hand and attractive’).

The precise nature of the weapon this David holds is not a settled question. Nagel describes it as a sling held in the right hand:

The figure’s left hand presses against a pliable piece of material, folded over, legible as the pouch ready to receive a stone, which is connected by the strap across his back to the sling handle in his right hand. The cylindrical form might well be the top piece of a staff sling, or fustibal.

If this is the case, then he'd use his right hand to propel the stone with the (now broken) fustibal. However, this doesn't answer your question definitively, I'm sorry to say. The ambiguity may have been intentional. (It supports the reserve and thoughtfulness of the figure.)

(For more discussion of this practicality of this sling, fifteenth-century slinging, and other matters related to slings, see the forums at
posted by Francolin at 8:21 PM on October 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

This statue is about his body, not the minute mechanics of his sling. Therefore I vote righty, since his stance suggests his right arm is ready for a throw.
posted by hovey at 9:00 PM on October 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This author makes a similar point to what hovey says. David is facing, or looking towards his enemy. That means, like a baseball pitcher, his energy is concentrated in the right hand side of his body ready to push forward.
From the conventional side view of the statue that Stone undoubtedly had in mind, David does appear to be lost in thought as he gazes off into the distance. From the long-concealed frontal view depicted above, however, it is clear that the only decision David is making is when to release his stone and where to place it. Contra Stone, he is already committed irretrievably to the battle.

Stone also insists repeatedly that David is holding the stone in his right hand. If we may assume that David is right handed, he would in fact be holding the ends of the sling-straps in his right hand, while the pouch containing the stone would be held ready with his left hand. If he were instead a southpaw, his right shoulder would be facing his target, as any pitcher would know.
He also addresses the unusual sling:
David's sling is, admittedly, rather unusual. In antiquity, from Egypt to the Andes, slings have been made with a finger-loop (or occasionally a wrist-loop) to retain the sling after the stone is released. However, a close examination of David's right hand with ScanView reveals no finger loop or wrist loop of any kind.

Instead, there is some sort of T-shaped handle, like that on certain corkscrews, in his right hand when viewed from above. It would be rather awkward to hold onto this handle on the retention strap while simultaneously letting go of the release strap. However, "Glenn G."'s contribution to the Member's Gallery does have a similar T-shaped handle on the retention cord, so evidently there is some way to make it work.
...[some discussion of the unusual sling]
David must therefore have been a side-arm slinger, using a longer sling to obtain more power than could be obtained with an overhand turn, while at the same time retaining accuracy by dint of his great skill. Coming from a background as a solitary shepherd, he would not have to worry about beaning nearby comrades with a wide horizontal turn. Many of the avocational slingers depicted on are in fact side-armers, as is even their logo.
posted by vacapinta at 4:30 AM on October 28, 2022 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everybody!

Note for all future scholars: David is right handed. It is settled.
posted by bondcliff at 6:45 AM on October 28, 2022 [4 favorites]

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