This impressive 14 foot renaissance art stature was designed between 1501-1504 as a depiction of the Biblical character King David. It was financed by the Opera del Duomo under the Florentine cathedral as one of a number of sculptures to be stationed high up above the city.
The history of ‘il David’ di Michelangelo
Upon its completion Michelangelo’s contemporary, the great architect Giorgio Vasari went on to issue a very poetic description of it. When you are not far from the academia gallery you can get a full and unobstructed view of this magnificent work of marble stone.
The work on David had already been commissioned 36 years earlier in 1464 by the museum Vestry board but the artists Duccio Agostino and Rosselino Antonio rejected the massive marble block. So the marble rock lay on the courtyard of the vestry board for 25 more years. Michelangelo was 25 years old and already one of the most prolific and brilliant sculptors in Florence when he accepted the challenge, to design the statue of David in 1501.
While the Opera dell Duomo committee had established a statute of David, Michelangelo surpassed their interpretations and expectations. David is a historical figure chronicled in the book of 1 Samuel in which the Israelites are caught up in a protracted battle with the nation of Philistine. Goliath, the hefty Philistine warrior delivers major casualties to the Israeli Army time and again. David a young shepherd whose brothers are already in the war takes up the challenge and with the help of a sling and five stones he takes on Goliath and kills him.
Verrocchio, Donatello and Ghiberti all portrayed David as the warrior while their archival Michelangelo depicted him in the pre-war moment. Michelangelo portrays David as tensed up, alert and resting on the famed contrapposto pose with his full weight borne by one leg and the other foot pressed forward. This makes his waist and shoulders to rest in opposing positions in a way that curves his torso sideways.
In the sculpture the sling belonging to David is partially hidden behind him. It is believed that Michelangelo worked on this edifice in secrecy. He worked through the sun and rian and most of the time slept in his shoes and clothing as depicted by his biographer Ascanio Condivi.
When he finished sculpting it, more than 30 artists were consulted on where the statue should be kept. Nine different locations suggested. Eventually it took forty men, four days to move the 14 foot tall structure to Piazza della Signoria. This became its final resting point until 1873, when it was moved into the current position at the Galleria dell’Accademia.