Michelangelo’s David, Galleria dell’Accademia
Michelangelo Buonarroti completed the David in 1504 (he began it in 1501). It is considered one of the greatest sculptures of the Renaissance
Together with Moses and the Pieta’, the David is one of Michelangelo’s most renowned works. Some scholars have even claimed that it is the most beautiful object ever made by Man. The massive sculpture depicts the biblical hero just after his battle with Goliath. The white marble statue is 5.17m tall and was supposed to be the symbol of the Florentine Republic. On August 16, 1501, the Florence’s Opera del Duomo commissioned the work to Michelangelo. It was to be placed in one of the external buttresses located in the apsidal area of the Florence Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore. As he was working on the statute, Michelangelo built a fence around the marble block to stop people from seeing him while he worked. The block of marble he chose was previously rough-hewed by Agostino di Duccio in 1464, and by Antonio Rossellino in 1476, however both artists abandoned the marble block claiming it was too fragile to sculpt with, especially at its base.
The marble block was already supposed to be used to sculpt a statue depicting a nude David, however without the head of Goliath. The marble block also had many veins, called taroli, which Michelangelo filled and covered with lime mortar. When the sculpture was finished, gonfalonier of justice Pietro Soderini decided to position it in Piazza Signoria, effectively transferring the statue’s value from a religious to a civil one. On May 18, 1504, a group of illustrious Florentine artists (Andrea della Robbia, Piero di Cosimo, Pietro Vannucci, Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli and Cosimo Rosselli) decided to position the statue in the courtyard of Palazzo Vecchio instead placing it under the Loggia dei Lanzi to give it more visibility. In this location, however, it would have been subjected to the elements. It took four days to move the massive statue. During its transportation, a group of young Medici-supporters, angered by the establishment of the Republic in Florence, threw rocks at the statue, damaging it somewhat.
Michelangelo repaired it on the spot the next day by painting the wood truck at the base in gold, and adding a brass garland with leaves around the David’s head. In 1512, a thunderbolt hit the statute’s base, accentuating the fragility of the marble, which had already begun showing some fissures in the statue’s ankles. In 1527, there was a city revolt, in which the Medici were forced to flee the city, and the David was seriously damaged in the crossfire. The statue’s left arm broke into three pieces, and the sling was splintered. Giorgio Vasari and Francesco Salviati gathered the fragments and hid them in Salviati’s house. When Cosimo I returned to the city, the statue was restored, however, the signs of damage can still be seen today.