The Statue of David was sculpted during a three year period beginning in 1501 by the artist Michelangelo. The subject of the work is the Biblical King David in the moment that he makes the decision to fight Goliath. The seventeen foot tall statue became the symbol of defending the civic liberties of the Florentine Republic, an area surrounded by more powerful states and the powerful Medici family. The sculpture originally stood outside the seat of government in Florence, the Palazzo della Signoria.
Michelangelo wasn't the original artist of the sculpture. A group of officials sought to commission a twelve sculptures based on the Old Testament to grace decorate a cathederal. The first two were completed by Donatello and Agostino di Duccio, his assistant. The buyers contacted di Duccio to create the work of David. He shaped the legs, feet and figure and began to do some drapery work before he left the projects, possibly due to the death of Donatello. Antonio Rossellino took over the sculpting product but he was essentially fired.
The partially altered chunk of marble sat that way for the next twenty five years in the yard of a workshop. The block of marble became smaller due to exposure to the elements. The deterioration of their pricey investment was enough for the group of buyers to restart the process of finding an artist. Various artists were interviewed for the task, including Leonardo da Vinci, but Michelangelo was finally hired in 1501.
David is thought to be preparing for battle since the body of Goliath is not included and the young man's body is tense and ready for action. There are bulging veins in his hand and a twisting in his body. But there are those who think it shows him in the moments after his victory, when he is contemplating his victory.
The statue is standing in the contrapposto pose that prevailed during the High Renaissance. His weight is shifted onto his right leg while the left is relaxed. To balance that out, his left arm is in motion (holding the rock) while his right hangs to his side. It is a very naturalistic stance. The pedestal of marble below him is treated as though it were something he just stepped up onto.
His proportions aren't as realistic. The head and upper region of the body are larger than the lower parts of the body. The hands are also disproportionately large. The proportions are defended by experts as being accurate for the original intended home of the statue, high up on a church where the body's ratio would have looked accurate. There is some controversy surrounding the fact that the David in the statue is not circumcised when the real life king would have been.
A vandal attacked the statue in 1991, damaging some of the toes on the left foot with a hammer before he was restrained. The first serious cleaning of the statue since 1843 happened in 2003 with no damage done to the statue although there were concerns by many scholars before hand.
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