Statue of David

The history of the creation of the sculpture of David in Florence

David sculpture

Michelangelo was only 26 years old when, in 1501, he received a commission from the wool merchants' guild to create a sculpture of an Old Testament character to decorate the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. The artist faced a difficult task - to carve a giant sculpture from a piece of marble, which had already been abandoned by two masters. It is known that both sculptors stopped working with this marble block because of its low quality and fragility. Apart from the inherent weakness of the marble, other elements made it difficult to work with: the veins that run throughout the block and the innumerable taroli, or holes that pierce the surface.

However, despite all these difficulties, Michelangelo accepted the challenge and for two years turned the marble block into a sculpture of David - the personification of rebelliousness and fortitude.

Symbolism of David

The sculpture depicts David, a biblical figure. According to the Bible, David fights Goliath, the colossal Philistine. Despite everything, the unarmed David knocks down the enemy with a sling and then beheads him with his sword.

In the description of the statue of David, the words “classical” and “traditional” are often used, but this is not entirely correct. Michelangelo's David is very different from earlier versions by Florentine Renaissance artists such as Verrocchio, Ghiberti, and Donatello, who depicted a triumphant version of the young hero standing victorious over the severed head of Goliath. Michelangelo decided to portray David before the battle: he is alert and ready for battle.

We hardly see the slingshot that David holds over his shoulder - the artist implies that David's victory was due more to his mind than his sheer strength. His self-confidence and concentration are values ​​that were highly valued during the Renaissance, which aspired to the ideal of the "thinking man".

Michelangelo used a classic pose known as contrapposto (contrapposto), where most of the weight is on one leg so that the shoulders and arms are off-axis from the hips and legs, giving the sculpture a dynamic look.

The pose of David looks natural and unconstrained, and it is obvious that Michelangelo had to work hard to give such lightness to the huge and heavy statue.

Now the statue of David is presented in one of the halls of the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence and is available for viewing by everyone. But David did not get his place at the Academy right away.

Initially, the sculpture was intended to decorate the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. When the statue was almost complete, the Florentine authorities realized that it was too large and heavy to be lifted to the cathedral's roof.

In June 1504, the sculpture was placed next to the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza Della Signoria instead of Donatello's bronze sculpture of Judith and Holofernes. It took four days and forty men to move the statue from Michelangelo's workshop to Piazza Della Signoria, although the distance was less than a mile.

In 1873, "David" was removed from the square to protect it from damage and placed in the gallery of the Academy. The replica that now stands in the square was erected in 1910 in the same place where the original used to be.

david and goliaf

In general, Michelangelo's "David" holds the record for the number of copies and casts. The most famous of them are installed:

- Piazza Della Signoria (Florence);

- Piazzale Michelangelo (Florence)

- in the Victoria and Albert Museum (London) - a copy, known for being supplied with a fig leaf during visits to the Queen's Museum.

david and goliaf

The battle of David and Goliath is one of the most popular Old Testament stories in world culture. However, it was Michelangelo Buonarroti who managed to create such a discouragingly beautiful David that today this statue is perhaps the leader in terms of the number of copies and interpretations.

According to the Old Testament description, the Philistines decided to go to war against the Israelites. The latter also raised an army, which was led by Saul. Among the Israelite soldiers were David's older brothers. He was still too young and so far only herded sheep. Shortly before the start of the battle, his father sent David to the brothers to bring bread and, so to speak, to say hello from home.

During his undertaking, David saw the giant Goliath and heard this Philistine laughing at the god. None of the Israeli armies dared to call Goliath to account for his bold words. Then David, with the permission of Saul, decided to attack the giant. He refused the sword and helmet - he simply did not know how to handle them. The young man took a stone and launched it from a sling at Goliath. A simple weapon struck the giant in the forehead and struck him down on the spot. The Philistines were completely at a loss when they learned that the strong man was killed by a stone, the ranks mixed up, and were crushed by the Israelites. What is true and what is fiction is difficult to say. Scholars debate the historicity of David as such.

In the original, David is a young man. In Michelangelo, he is shown as a strong man, the future king of the Jews (who, according to the same Old Testament descriptions, he will soon become). The hero is presented in all the splendor of the beauty of his perfect body. The pose of a person who is confident in his strength, and at the same time, emotional tension and concentration are read in his eyes. We see how the muscles and veins are tense. It seems that David is ready to throw a stone at Goliath at any moment.


There are three museums in Florence, where in any weather at any time of the year there is an unstoppable line: the Uffizi Gallery, which contains the best works of Renaissance art, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and the Accademia Gallery. People go to the latter only for the sake of "David".

The statue was moved to the Academy with great fanfare in 1873. Before that, for three centuries it stood in the center of the city on Piazza Della Signoria, burned by the sun and blown by the winds. Contemporaries were not particularly worried about the preservation of cultural heritage, so David, as a symbol of the independence and strength of Florence, stood next to administrative buildings, which, by the way, are also museums today.

Under the terms of an agreement concluded in 1501, the 5-meter statue was to be made from a single piece of marble by 1504. The material offered by Florence was complex - not every experienced craftsman would take on a block that had been aimlessly standing in the courtyard of Santa Maria del Fiore for a long time, and even was spoiled by the predecessor sculptors. 26-year-old Michelangelo, who had fled from Rome without the permission of the pope, was confident in his genius and did not hesitate to set to work. At the wall of Santa Maria del Fiore, the sculptor fenced off a place around a block of marble and for two years did not show anyone what was happening behind the scaffolding.

When David appeared before the Florentines, they were dumbfounded by the grandeur and beauty of this marble giant. Giorgio Vasari, the man who came up with the idea of ​​compiling the biographies of artists, wrote: “To the one who saw this, it’s not worth looking at any sculpture of any master of ours or other times.”

At the time of the creation of the sculpture, Florence was a powerful republic that conducted its affairs independently of papal Rome. Political independence was supported by financial stability. The export of silk, trade, banking - the turnover of capital was colossal. However, the Republic did not have a standing army, and expenses were rising - the Renaissance was completely mounted by Florence. In addition, Rome did not like the freedom-loving behavior of Florence, and France strove to interfere in Italian affairs. Plus, disputes for power did not stop inside Florence itself. As a result, 30 years after the creation of such a powerful symbol of the independence of Florence - the statue of David - nothing remains of independence itself. In the early 1530s, imperial troops entered the city, crushing the resisters. Florence was waiting for repression, reprisals, and executions. The democratic constitution was abolished and a hereditary monarchy was proclaimed instead.

The fate of the artist

Michelangelo, although he was from a noble family, was brought up in a family of ordinary people - his father did not have enough money to support all the children. In the village, a child, even before reading and writing, learned to work with clay.

Later, already during the training of Michelangelo in the workshop, Lorenzo de Medici noticed him and took patronage over him, which involved orders and money. After the death of the patron in 1492, Michelangelo began to work mainly with commissions from the church. Through his efforts, works of art appeared in Rome, stunning in terms of complexity and beauty.

One of these is the vault of the Sistine Chapel. The ceiling, huge in area, was painted with plot frescoes for 4 years. Michelangelo had no plan, no sketches, no markup - he kept everything in his head. During work, even the Pope could not enter the hall.

The absurd character of Michelangelo was legendary. Especially about his perfectionism. He could abandon a half-done job if he noticed that something did not fully correspond with the plan. And he burned many of his drawings and sketches shortly before his death. First, he did not want anyone to see the torment in which art is born. And secondly, he understood that at that time there were no technical means for their implementation.

Society of women Michelangelo did not favor. Only in his seventies did he meet his first love and muse. She was then already over forty, she was a widow and found solace in poetry.

Michelangelo died quietly and calmly at the age of 88, having given, according to his own will, his soul to God, his body to the earth, and his property to his relatives. The latter was especially surprised, having received tens of millions of dollars in modern equivalent. The fact is that during his life with Michelangelo, he constantly complained about the losses and in every possible way became downcast.

The Titan of the Renaissance was known for his skirmishes with both Leonardo and Raphael - which did not prevent him from becoming one of the greatest. So, interesting facts about Michelangelo's "David"!
  1. When Michelangelo started working on David, he was only 26 years old!

Yes, at the time of signing the order - it happened on August 16, 1501 - Michelangelo was only 26 years old. It seems like a very green youngster - but this is from which side to look!

Do not forget that by that time a young man from an impoverished noble family had already created, among other things, such masterpieces as "Bacchus", "Angel with a Candlestick" and even "Vatican Pieta".

It should not be forgotten that people at that time, on average, lived less than today, and therefore matured early. So, Michelangelo already at the age of 12 began training in the workshop of Ghirlandaio, then moved on to Bertoldo di Giovanni and already in 1492 was able to create such a mature work as the Crucifixion of the Church of Santo Spirito. So by 1501, he was a well-established master, who had behind him a solid experience of work and orders.

  1. Work on "David" began when Michelangelo was not yet born.

The idea to sculpt a statue of David, along with eleven other Old Testament characters, arose in the middle of the 15th century, in those distant times, when Michelangelo's mother had not yet thought about marrying his future father.

The initiator of the creation of a cycle of sculptures, which were to decorate the famous Florentine "Duomo", was the guild of wool merchants. Thanks to her efforts, by 1464 only two sculptures were completed, one of which was sculpted by Donatello, and the other by his student Agostino di Duccio.

As for the statue of "David" - work on it did not work out from the very beginning. Donatello soon died, and his student abandoned the project, barely having time to start trimming the legs of the figure. A huge block of marble from the quarries of Carrara, nicknamed by the locals "Giant", was completely abandoned for many decades.

  1. Born Michelangelo 10 years later - he might not have received an order for "David"

Yes, Michelangelo was born just in time to grow up, learn and arrive in time for the order that has glorified him for centuries at the most, one might say, a critical moment.

It's all about the stone. Marble is an exceptionally beautiful material, but the effects of precipitation affect it most detrimentally. For decades, the block of marble destined for the "David" was in the open air, and year after year it melted before the eyes of indifferent Florentines, risking being completely unusable when it was finally remembered.

And so, serious doubts arose about the suitability of the block for sculpture. Before Michelangelo received the order, the curators of the Duomo consulted with all the famous masters of the time, including Leonardo da Vinci - and only after the experts recognized the statue as fit for completion, the order was entrusted to the ambitious young Michelangelo.

  1. "David" by Michelangelo - an example of an iconographic revolution!

Yes, Michelangelo's "David" is a complete iconographic innovation. The mediocre masters follow a long-established tradition, and the great ones break it and create a new one. Long before the birth of Michelangelo, there was a well-established canon, according to which it was customary to portray David at the moment of triumph over the vile giant Goliath.

Let us recall the bronze "David" by the same Donatello, where a very effeminate David elegantly placed his graceful leg on the freshly severed head of Goliath.

Michelangelo approached this conflicting biblical situation in a completely different way - he portrayed his David at the moment before the battle, and not after it. And, oddly enough, it works much better! It is enough to circle the athletic figure, radiating calm confidence, and then look into the eyes of Michelangelo's "David", and it will immediately become clear: Goliath is about to get hurt!

  1. Michelangelo completed the order so well that he deprived the sculpture of religious significance!

Yes, too good is sometimes worse than bad. Even at the time when Michelangelo did not finish his David, his work was sewn to be evaluated by other Florentine masters, and most of them agreed that the general civil idea of sculpture completely outweighs its religious significance!

That is why Michelangelo's "David" was decided not to be placed near the cathedral, for which it was ordered, but in the loggia of Lanzi, where the city council met.

Henceforth, "David" was called upon to visually embody the heroic struggle of the Florentine people against tyranny.

  1. For the sake of artistic purposes, Michelangelo deprived "David" of one muscle!

This was probably suspected (felt at the level of instinct) for a long time, but scientifically proven only in our time: to achieve greater artistic expressiveness, Michelangelo went to distort the proportions of the figure of David in the upper part of the statue.

One of the modern scientists, using the latest tools bestowed on him by science, made ultra-precise measurements and proved that between the right shoulder blade and the spine, "David" really lacks one muscle!

  1. Despite his Jewish origin, Michelangelo's "David" is not circumcised!

Here Michelangelo, despite all his inclination to innovation, decided not to deviate from the general Renaissance tradition and depicted his "David" as uncircumcised. For this reason, already in the 20th century, the authorities of Jerusalem reacted negatively to the proposal of the Florentines to accept a cast from the statue from them.

In general, they can be understood: what Israelis would like is that the hero of the Israeli people be depicted as an Italian youth of the Renaissance, obviously from a good family, and even uncircumcised!

Art - what to take ... The historical truth does not always correspond to the goals and objectives of the creator.

  1. "David" by Michelangelo in Piazza Della Signoria - a copy, not the original!

In 1873, the Florentine authorities finally realized that "David" needed to be "hidden" as a matter of urgency - and they transferred the statue to one of the halls of the Academy of Fine Arts. By 1910, a copy of "David" was made, which took the place of the original in Signoria Square.

As for the original, in 2003-2004 it underwent a thorough restoration, during which it was cleaned of the multi-layered pollution that had accumulated on the marble over many centuries. So now "David", one might say - is new, except for one unfortunate fact.

  1. Michelangelo's "David" did not escape the attack of the vandal

    This happened even before the restoration, in 1991. The art-mad maniac suddenly attacked "David" with a hammer and, before being neutralized by the guards, managed to inflict several sensitive hammer blows on the Old Testament hero, damaging the toes of his left foot.Michelangelo's "David" did not escape the attack of the vandal

    1. What would David look like in real life?
      David look like in real life
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