David (Michelangelo)

David (Michelangelo)

Overview
David is a masterpiece
Masterpiece
Masterpiece in modern usage refers to a creation that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person's career or to a work of outstanding creativity, skill or workmanship....

 of Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 sculpture
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

 created between 1501 and 1504, by the Italian artist Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

. It is a 5.17 metres (17 ft) marble statue of a standing male nude. The statue represents the Biblical
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 hero David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

, a favoured subject in the art of Florence. Originally commissioned as one of a series of statues of prophets to be positioned along the roofline of the east end of Florence Cathedral, the statue was instead placed in a public square, outside the Palazzo della Signoria
Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence, Italy. This massive, Romanesque, crenellated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany...

, the seat of civic government in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, where it was unveiled on 8 September 1504.
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Encyclopedia
David is a masterpiece
Masterpiece
Masterpiece in modern usage refers to a creation that has been given much critical praise, especially one that is considered the greatest work of a person's career or to a work of outstanding creativity, skill or workmanship....

 of Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 sculpture
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

 created between 1501 and 1504, by the Italian artist Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

. It is a 5.17 metres (17 ft) marble statue of a standing male nude. The statue represents the Biblical
Bible
The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

 hero David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

, a favoured subject in the art of Florence. Originally commissioned as one of a series of statues of prophets to be positioned along the roofline of the east end of Florence Cathedral, the statue was instead placed in a public square, outside the Palazzo della Signoria
Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence, Italy. This massive, Romanesque, crenellated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany...

, the seat of civic government in Florence
Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

, where it was unveiled on 8 September 1504. Because of the nature of the hero that it represented, it soon came to symbolize the defense of civil liberties embodied in the Florentine Republic
Republic of Florence
The Republic of Florence , or the Florentine Republic, was a city-state that was centered on the city of Florence, located in modern Tuscany, Italy. The republic was founded in 1115, when the Florentine people rebelled against the Margraviate of Tuscany upon Margravine Matilda's death. The...

, an independent city-state
City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

 threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states and by the hegemony of the Medici
Medici
The House of Medici or Famiglia de' Medici was a political dynasty, banking family and later royal house that first began to gather prominence under Cosimo de' Medici in the Republic of Florence during the late 14th century. The family originated in the Mugello region of the Tuscan countryside,...

 family. The eyes of David, with a warning glare, were turned towards Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

. The statue was moved to the Accademia Gallery in Florence in 1873, and later replaced at the original location by a replica.

History


The history of the statue begins before Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

's work on it from 1501 to 1504. Prior to Michelangelo's involvement, the Overseers of the Office of Works of the Duomo (Operai), consisting mostly of members of the influential woolen cloth guild, the Arte della Lana
Arte della Lana
The Arte della Lana was the wool guild of Florence during the Late Middle Ages and in the Renaissance. It was one of the seven greater Arti of Florence, separate from the Arti Minori...

, had plans to commission a series of twelve large Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

 sculptures for the buttress
Buttress
A buttress is an architectural structure built against or projecting from a wall which serves to support or reinforce the wall...

es of the cathedral
Cathedral
A cathedral is a Christian church that contains the seat of a bishop...

 of Santa Maria Del Fiore. One of those statues had been made by Donatello in 1410 - a figure of Joshua made of terracotta - and a second, also a terracotta, but this time of Hercules, was commissioned from the Florentine sculptor Agostino di Duccio in 1463; scholars suggest that Agostino was working under Donatello's direction. Eager to continue their project, in 1464, the Operai contracted Agostino to create a sculpture of David. A block of marble was provided, from a quarry in Carrara
Carrara
Carrara is a city and comune in the province of Massa-Carrara , notable for the white or blue-grey marble quarried there. It is on the Carrione River, some west-northwest of Florence....

, a town in the Apuan Alps in northern Tuscany. Agostino only got as far as beginning to shape the legs, feet and the torso, roughing out some drapery
Drapery
Drapery is a general word referring to cloths or textiles . It may refer to cloth used for decorative purposes – such as around windows – or to the trade of retailing cloth, originally mostly for clothing, formerly conducted by drapers.In art history, drapery refers to any cloth or...

 and probably gouging a hole between the legs. His association with the project ceased, for reasons unknown, with the death of Donatello in 1466, and ten years later Antonio Rossellino
Antonio Rossellino
Antonio Gamberelli , nicknamed Antonio Rossellino for the colour of his hair, was an Italian sculptor. His older brother, from whom he received his formal training, was the painter Bernardo Rossellino....

 was commissioned to take up where Agostino had left off.
Rossellino's contract was terminated soon thereafter, and the block of marble remained neglected for twenty-five years, all the while exposed to the elements in the yard of the cathedral workshop. This was of great concern to the Opera authorities, as such a large piece of marble not only was costly but also represented a large amount of labour and difficulty in its transportation to Florence. In 1500, an inventory of the cathedral workshops described the piece as "a certain figure of marble called David, badly blocked out and supine." A year later, documents showed that the Operai were determined to find an artist who could take this large piece of marble and turn it into a finished work of art. They ordered the block of stone, which they called The Giant, "raised on its feet" so that a master experienced in this kind of work might examine it and express an opinion. Though Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

 and others were consulted, it was Michelangelo, only twenty-six years old, who convinced the Operai that he deserved the commission. On August 16, 1501, Michelangelo was given the official contract to undertake this challenging new task. He began carving the statue early in the morning on Monday, September 13, a month after he was awarded the contract. He would work on the massive biblical hero for more than two years.
On January 25, 1504, when the sculpture was nearing completion, Florentine authorities had to acknowledge there would be little possibility of raising the more than 6-ton statue to the roof of the cathedral. They convened a committee of 30 Florentine citizens that comprised many artists, including Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

 and Sandro Botticelli
Sandro Botticelli
Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance...

, to decide on an appropriate site for David. While nine different locations for the statue were discussed, the majority of members seem to have been closely split between two sites: one group, led by Giuliano da Sangallo
Giuliano da Sangallo
Giuliano da Sangallo was an Italian sculptor, architect and military engineer active during the Italian Renaissance.He was born in Florence. His father Francesco Giamberti was a woodworker and architect, much employed by Cosimo de Medici, and his brother Antonio da Sangallo the Elder and nephew...

 and supported by Leonardo and Piero di Cosimo
Piero di Cosimo
Piero di Cosimo , also known as Piero di Lorenzo, was an Italian Renaissance painter.-Biography:The son of a goldsmith, Piero was born in Florence and apprenticed under the artist Cosimo Rosseli, from whom he derived his popular name and whom he assisted in the painting of the Sistine Chapel in...

, among others, believed that, due to the imperfections in the marble, the sculpture should be placed under the roof of the Loggia dei Lanzi
Loggia dei Lanzi
The Loggia dei Lanzi, also called the Loggia della Signoria, is a building on a corner of the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy, adjoining the Uffizi Gallery. It consists of wide arches open to the street, three bays wide and one bay deep. The arches rest on clustered pilasters with...

 on Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria
Piazza della Signoria is an L-shaped square in front of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy. It was named after the Palazzo della Signoria, also called Palazzo Vecchio....

; the other group thought it should stand at the entrance to the Palazzo della Signoria, the city's town hall. Only a rather minor view, supported by Botticelli, believed that the sculpture should be situated on or near the cathedral. In June, 1504 David was installed next to the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence, Italy. This massive, Romanesque, crenellated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany...

, replacing Donatello's bronze sculpture of Judith and Holofernes, which embodied a comparable theme of heroic resistance. It took four days to move the statue the half mile from Michelangelo's workshop into the Piazza della Signoria.

In 1873 the statue of David was removed from the piazza, to protect it from damage, and displayed in the Accademia Gallery
Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze
The Accademia di Belle Arti is an art academy in Florence, Italy and it is now the operative branch of the still existing Accademia delle Arti del Disegno that was the first academy of drawing in Europe.-History:The Accademia delle Arti del Disegno The Accademia di Belle Arti ("Academy of Fine...

, Florence, where it attracts many visitors. A replica was placed in the Piazza della Signoria in 1910.

In 1991, a deranged man attacked the statue with a hammer he had concealed beneath his jacket, in the process damaging the toes of the left foot before being restrained.

On 12 November 2010, a fiberglass replica of the David was installed on the roofline of Florence Cathedral, for one day only. Photographs of the installation reveal the statue the way the Operai who commissioned the work originally expected it to be seen.

In 2010, a dispute over the ownership of David arose when, based on a legal review of historical documents, the Italian federal Culture Ministry claimed ownership of the statue in opposition to the city of Florence, where it has always been located. Florence disputes the state claim.

Interpretation


Michelangelo's David differs from previous representations of the subject in that the Biblical hero is not depicted with the head of the slain Goliath, as he is in Donatello
David (Donatello)
David is the name of two statues by Italian early Renaissance sculptor Donatello.- The biblical text :The story of David and Goliath comes from 1 Samuel 17. The Israelites are fighting the Philistines, whose best warrior - Goliath - repeatedly offers to meet the Israelites' best warrior in...

's and Verrocchio
David (Verrocchio)
Andrea del Verrocchio's bronze statue of David was most likely made between 1473 and 1475. It was commissioned by the Medici family. It is sometimes claimed that Verrocchio modelled the statue after a handsome pupil in his workshop, the young Leonardo da Vinci.The statue represents the youthful...

's statues. Most scholars consider that the work depicts David before his battle with Goliath. Instead of appearing victorious over a foe much larger than he, David's face looks tense and ready for combat. The tendons in his neck stand out tautly; his nasolabial muscles are tight; his brow is furrowed; and his eyes seem to focus intently on something in the distance. Veins bulge out of his lowered right hand, but his body is in a relaxed contrapposto
Contrapposto
Contrapposto is an Italian term that means counterpose. It is used in the visual arts to describe a human figure standing with most of its weight on one foot so that its shoulders and arms twist off-axis from the hips and legs. This gives the figure a more dynamic, or alternatively relaxed...

 pose, and he carries his sling
Sling
The word sling may refer to:* Sling , a device used to hurl projectiles* Sling is an item of climbing equipment consisting of a sewn loop of webbing that can be wrapped around sections of rock or tied to other pieces of equipment.* Sling * Ski jumping sling is an item of sports training...

 casually thrown over his left shoulder.

The pose is unlike that of any earlier David; Donatello and Verrocchio had both represented the hero standing victorious over the head of Goliath, and Andrea del Castagno
Andrea del Castagno
Andrea del Castagno was an Italian painter from Florence, influenced chiefly by Tommaso Masaccio and Giotto di Bondone. His works include frescoes in Sant'Apollonia in Florence and the painted equestrian monument of Niccolò da Tolentino in the Cathedral in Florence...

 had shown the boy in mid-swing, even as Goliath's head rested between his feet, but no earlier Florentine artist had omitted the giant altogether. The contrast between his intense expression and his calm pose perhaps suggests that David is represented after he has made the decision to fight Goliath but before the battle has actually taken place. The majority of his weight is on his back leg, staying consistent with the Renaissance practice of depicting its subjects in recoiled, calm positions, just prior to action. It is a representation of the moment between conscious choice and conscious action.

Michelangelo's David is a Renaissance interpretation of a common ancient Greek theme of the standing heroic male nude. In the High Renaissance, contrapposto poses were thought of as a distinctive feature of antique sculpture. In David, the figure stands with one leg holding its full weight and the other leg relaxed. This classic pose causes the figure’s hips and shoulders to rest at opposite angles, giving a slight s-curve to the entire torso. In addition, the head turns to the left while the left arm is raised to his left shoulder with his sling
Sling (weapon)
A sling is a projectile weapon typically used to throw a blunt projectile such as a stone or lead "sling-bullet". It is also known as the shepherd's sling....

 flung down behind his back. Michelangelo’s David has become one of the most recognized works of Renaissance sculpture, becoming a symbol of both strength and youthful human beauty.

It was the colossal size of the statue that most impressed Michelangelo's contemporaries, however. Vasari described it as "certainly a miracle that of Michelangelo, to restore to life one who was dead," and then listed every ancient colossal statue he had ever seen, concluding that Michelangelo's work excelled "all ancient and modern statues, whether Greek or Latin, that have ever existed."
The proportions of the David are atypical of Michelangelo's work; the figure has an unusually large head and hands (particularly apparent in the right hand). These enlargements may be due to the fact that the statue was originally intended to be placed on the cathedral roofline, where the important parts of the sculpture would necessarily be accentuated in order to be visible from below.

The statue is unusually slender (front to back) in comparison to its height. This may be the result of the work that had been done on the block before Michelangelo began carving it.

It is possible that the David was conceived as a political statue before Michelangelo began to work on it. Certainly David the giant-killer had long been seen as a political figure in Florence, and images of the Biblical hero already carried political implications there. Donatello's bronze David,
David (Donatello)
David is the name of two statues by Italian early Renaissance sculptor Donatello.- The biblical text :The story of David and Goliath comes from 1 Samuel 17. The Israelites are fighting the Philistines, whose best warrior - Goliath - repeatedly offers to meet the Israelites' best warrior in...

 made for the Medici family, perhaps c. 1440, had been appropriated by the Signoria
Signoria
A Signoria was an abstract noun meaning 'government; governing authority; de facto sovereignty; lordship in many of the Italian city states during the medieval and renaissance periods....

 in 1494, when the Medici were exiled from Florence, and the statue was installed in the courtyard of the Palazzo della Signoria, where it stood for the Republican government of the city. By placing Michelangelo's statue in the same general location, the Florentine authorities ensured that David would be seen as a political parallel as well as an artistic response to that earlier work.

Commentators have noted Davids apparently uncircumcised
Circumcision
Male circumcision is the surgical removal of some or all of the foreskin from the penis. The word "circumcision" comes from Latin and ....

 penis, which is at odds with Judaic practice
Brit milah
The brit milah is a Jewish religious circumcision ceremony performed on 8-day old male infants by a mohel. The brit milah is followed by a celebratory meal .-Biblical references:...

, but is considered consistent with the conventions of Renaissance art.

Conservation


In 1991 the foot of the statue was damaged by a deranged man with a hammer. The samples obtained from that incident allowed scientists to determine that the marble
Marble
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.Geologists use the term "marble" to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone.Marble is commonly used for...

 used was obtained from the Fantiscritti quarries
Quarry
A quarry is a type of open-pit mine from which rock or minerals are extracted. Quarries are generally used for extracting building materials, such as dimension stone, construction aggregate, riprap, sand, and gravel. They are often collocated with concrete and asphalt plants due to the requirement...

 in Miseglia, the central of three small valleys in Carrara
Carrara
Carrara is a city and comune in the province of Massa-Carrara , notable for the white or blue-grey marble quarried there. It is on the Carrione River, some west-northwest of Florence....

. The marble in question contains many microscopic holes that cause it to deteriorate faster than other marbles. Because of the marble's degradation, from 2003 to 2004 the statue was given its first major cleaning since 1843. Some experts opposed the use of water to clean the statue, fearing further deterioration. Under the direction of Dr. Franca Falleti, senior restorers Monica Eichmann and Cinzia Pamigoni undertook the job of restoring the statue.

In 2008, plans were proposed to insulate the statue from the vibration of tourists' footsteps at Florence's Galleria dell'Accademia, to prevent damage to the marble.

Replicas




The statue has been reproduced many times. The plaster cast
Casting
In metalworking, casting involves pouring liquid metal into a mold, which contains a hollow cavity of the desired shape, and then allowing it to cool and solidify. The solidified part is also known as a casting, which is ejected or broken out of the mold to complete the process...

 of David at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum , set in the Brompton district of The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London, England, is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects...

 has a detachable plaster fig leaf
Fig leaf
A fig leaf is the covering up of an act or an object that is embarrassing or disagreeable. The term is a metaphorical reference to the Biblical Book of Genesis, in which Adam and Eve used fig leaves to cover "their nakedness" after eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and...

 which is displayed nearby. The fig leaf was created in response to Queen Victoria's shock upon first viewing the statue's nudity, and was hung on the figure prior to royal visits, using two strategically placed hooks.

By the 20th century, Michelangelo's David had become iconic shorthand for "culture". David has been endlessly reproduced, in plaster and imitation marble fibreglass, signifying an attempt to lend an atmosphere of culture even in some unlikely settings, such as beach resorts, gambling casinos and model railroads.

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