Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Michelangelo's David

Michelangelo's David, finished by Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1504 (started in 1501) is widely considered to be a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture, and one of Michelangelo's two greatest works of sculpture, along with the Pieta. David portrays the Biblical David at the moment that he decides to engage Goliath. This 4.1 meter (13' 5") marble statue was commissioned as a symbol of the Florentine Republic.

Notice the sling over the figure's shoulder, and the almost perfect human proportions depicted. Michelangelo's David is based on the artistic discipline of disegno, which is built on knowledge of the male human form. Under this discipline, sculpture is considered to be the finest form of art because it mimics divine creation. Because Michelangelo adhered to the concepts of disegno, he worked under the premise that the image of David was already in the block of stone he was working on -- in much the same way as the human soul is thought to be found within the physical body. It is also an example for the contrapposto style.

The proportions are not quite true to the human form; the head and upper body are somewhat larger than the proportions of the lower body. While some have suggested that this is mannerist stylization, the most commonly accepted explanation is that the statue was originally intended to be placed on a church fascade or high pedestal, and that the proportions would appear correct when the statue was viewed from some distance below.

The statue was originally placed in the Piazza Signoria, just in front of the Palazzo della Signoria. To protect it from damage, in 1873 it was moved to the Accademia Gallery in Florence, where it attracts many visitors. A replica was placed in the Piazza Signoria in 1910.

Another replica of the statue was offered as a gift by the municipality of Florence to the municipality of Jerusalem to mark the 3,000 anniversary of David's conquest of the city. The proposed gift evoked a storm in the city, with religious factions in the municipality declaring that the naked figure was pornographic and should not be accepted. Finally, a compromise was reached and another, fully-clad replica of a different statue was donated in its stead.

In 1991 a person attacked the statue with a hammer, damaging the toes of the left foot before being restrained. In 2003 a controversy occurred with some experts opposing the use of water to clean the statue. This was the first cleaning since 1843.

There are many other full-size replicas of the statue around the world, from a plaster cast copy in London's Victoria and Albert Museum, to the centrepiece of a shopping mall in Surfer's Paradise, Australia. One resident of Los Angeles. California has decorated his house and grounds with twenty-three reduced scale replicas of the statue. There is also a copy in front of CAESARS PALACE in Las Vegas among lots of other replicas of famous sculptures.