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David by Michelangelo

The photo above is of a copy of David, placed at its original place in Piazza della Signoria. The original is now located indoor in Galleria dell'Accademia. I had heard about David before seeing it for real, but I must say, it is difficult to find an object of art so perfect. You can walk around this statue and it is supremely elegent from any point. It is powerful and massive yet light and sublime. One can watch it for hours!

David may be the most celebrated and arguably most overexposed Renaissance image in Western art. Having stood for years in Piazza della Signoria, the statue was moved to its present home in 1873.

The statue was commissioned in 1501 by the Opera del Duomo, when Michelangelo was only 26. The statue's subject - David, the Israelite shepherd boy, the slayer of Goliath - was chosen because of parallels with Florence's recent history, in particular the city's (short-lived) liberation from from Medici rule and its ability to withstand more powerful Italian and foreign foes. The image of a boy warrior, at once alert and ready for battle, but also calm with certainty of victory, is so familiar that it is easy to ignore its greatness.

Michelangelo's achievement becomes still more remarkable when you learn that the statue was carved from a single block of marble over 13 feet high. Not only that, but the marble in question - an almost impossibly thin and default-riddled block - was widely considered too damaged for artistic use. Several prominent artists, Leonardo da Vinci and Agostino di Duccio among them, had already failed to make anything of the stone. Indeed, until Michelangelo's arrival, the slab had lain unworked since being quarried from the Tuscan hills some 40 years earlier. Michelangelo confounded the doubters, completing the work in just three years!

Last Revised October 5, 2007

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