On 1501 Florence was a Republic. To celebrate the virtues of the Republic Michelangelo was commissioned by the affluent Arte della Lana (Guild of Wool Merchants) to create the statue famously known as “David”.
This statue became the symbol of freedom for the Florentine institutions. As his subject, Michelangelo chose the Old Testament hero David, who defeated the giant Goliath through his cunning.
According to Giorgio Vasari, the marble used by Michelangelo derived from material abandoned by another sculptor in the courtyard of the Opera del Duomo. It is said that Michelangelo executed the work at the age of 25 years and received 400 crowns as payment.
Michelangelo’s David is represented in a way very unusual for its time, but very similar to that in which the ancient Greeks represented their heroes.
Instead of being displayed as a victor, the David depicts a youth in the phase immediately preceding a battle. The body, the muscles, and the posture express intellectual strength and iron will rather than physical effort.
In his Inferno, Dan Brown provides another important feature of the David that is ignored by many:
Michelangelo had employed the classical tradition of contrapposto to create the illusion that David was leaning to his right, his left leg bearing almost no weight, when, in fact, his left leg was supporting tons of marble.
Once the statue was finished, a committee formed from citizens and artists decided that it should be placed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio.
This outdoor location was revolutionary in that since the days of ancient Greece, statues depicting nudity were not exhibited in public places. By this singular historic event, the world has come to know the great skill and expressive power of Michelangelo, as well as the modernity of his fellow citizens, who understood the meaning of his work.
As the ancient city’s protector, Hercule’s main virtues were strength and wrath. From the moment of its unveiling, these same virtues became embodied in the statue of David.
On July 31, 1873, the David was transported by wagon to the Accademia Gallery, where it remains today. The delivery of the beloved statue took five days and was anxiously accompanied by the Florentines on foot, many of which were holding their breath.
It may come as a surprise to many that until a copy of the statue was provided to the Palazzo Vecchio in 1910, that building was deprived of a representation of the David.
In 1875, to celebrate the fourth centenary of the death of Michelangelo, a bronze copy of the David was placed in the center of the Piazzale Michelangelo, overlooking the city from above.
Pictures by Wikipedia