Italian Masterpieces: Michelangelos David

nickcharles · March 9, 2006 8:30 pm

A picture of Michelangelos David might be adequate to convey the impressiveness of this sculpture, but to see it in person is to understand instantly why this is one of the most famous works of art in the world. Walking through the hall of the Gallerie dellAccademia in Florence to the rotunda built especially for the sculpture, I couldnt help but look up with awe along with the throngs of tourists and students standing around the statue. Michelangelo has portrayed David here as a young boy, poised before battle with the giant goliath. He carries his sling over his shoulder and a stone in his right hand, and his muscles are tense in the apprehension of the moment. Michelangelo here has created a masterpiece in the highest sense of the word, bringing the Renaissance principle of the ideal male form to perhaps its highest level.
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The copy of the David in front of Palazzo dei Priori
The David sculpture was originally intended to be placed on one of the buttresses of the Cathedral of Florence, and so can be understood partially in this respect the strong musculature, thick lines of the hair, and prominent features were all meant to be seen from a distance. The block of marble that Michelangelo was given to use had already been started on by another artist, Agnostino di Duccio, who was originally commissioned to create the sculpture. However, the original project stopped in the 1460s with the death of Donatello, who had created the design Agostino was using for the statue. When Michelangelo finished the sculpture in 1504 it was so magnificent that the Florentines were reluctant to place it so high up, so it was instead placed in front of the Palazzo dei Priori as an official herald of the Republic. It was a fit symbol for the city because Florence, a republic at the time, was surrounded on all sides by cities led by powerful rulers. The Florentines wanted to uphold their power in the eyes of the neighboring kingdoms, and the metaphor of the young David overcoming the larger Goliath would have appealed to them. The sculpture eventually suffered from exposure, and in 1873 it was moved to the Gallerie dellAccademia where it remains today, and a copy of the work was erected in the piazza in place of the original one in 1882. The David was recognized as a masterpiece in its own time, as Vasari writes in the 16th century: For in it may be seen most beautiful contours of legs, with attachments of limbs and slender outlines of flanks that are divine; nor has there ever been seen a pose so easy, or any grace to equal that in this work, or feet, hands and head so well in accord, one member with another, in harmony, design, and excellence of artistry. And, of a truth, whoever has seen this work need not trouble to see any other work executed in sculpture, either in our own or in other times, by no matter what craftsman.
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Graphic3970.jpgA special thanks to Staff Columnist, Jenna Hoffstein [bluevenus], as she reports from her studies in Italy! We invite you to view: bluevenus' Art Gallery bluevenus' Renderosity Store
March 6, 2006

Article Comments


Modulok ( posted at 12:00AM Mon, 06 March 2006

Nice article. It is indeed a masterpiece. For those who cannot travel to Italy, they may wish to examine work done by Stanford university, 'The Digital Michelangelo Project'. A high resolution 3D laser scan of David can be remotely accessed through 'scanView' software to closely examine David from any angle. http://graphics.stanford.edu/projects/mich/ -Modulok-

nemirc ( posted at 12:00AM Tue, 07 March 2006

Very interesting. Glad to see you are having fun as a stealth reporter =D Smooth moderator: Thanks for the link B) I shall examine the model.

marcmorrel ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 09 March 2006

Nice article! Did'nt know what i saw in Florence was a copy, guess i will have to go back this summer and have a look at the original. You also make nice work. Stay with it! Marc Morrel

JRey ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 09 March 2006

Never saw Michelangelo's David, but did see his 'other' masterpiece The Pieta when it was on display at the New York World's Fair. Although still a boy, I was in absolute awe of the pristine and magnificent beauty of this sculpture. It seemed alive and breathing - I will never forget the experience. It is little wonder why he is considered not only one of the world's greatest artists, but a genius as well.

diolma ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 09 March 2006

I have always loved this sculpture. The closest I got to seeing "the original" was the copy in the Louvre, Paris. Up til then I'd only seen photos. One minor quibble, this doesn't conform to Renderosity's TOS that the rest of us have to adhere to. There's no "Nudity" warning...

LillianH ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 09 March 2006

Hi diolma, Thank you for mentioning that. I'll go put the "nudity" warning up right now ;-) Best wishes, Lillian

razzell2 ( posted at 12:00AM Thu, 20 July 2006

another great study on one of arts true masterpieces. most of your other paintings in this italian masterpeices thesis speak alot about symbolism and what the paintings mean and what the artist may have been trying to say...but this doesnt seem to be an issue with sculpture. and yet i have to ask, (and im going solely by what i can see in this photograph of this sculpture), what is that sculpted on david's right leg, aiming up towards the backside of david's, well, backside?. is it just me, or is the artist making a personal statement with this addition to his sculpture of david? i am no expert of the times or artwork in any sense of the word, but from what i have read about these periods of time when some of the worlds greatest art treasures were made, was that homosexuality and eccentricities of these artists and their peers was if not normal, then prevelant. so do i just have a dirty mind, or is that a phallus aimed at david's rear end in this sculpture? and i have to say that i never would have even thought of such a thing had not i first been to and read the other theses by Jenna and the comments on all of the other masterpieces prior to coming to this final masterpiece. so was i influenced by previous reading, or do really see what i think i see? someone let me know. and thanks jenna. this entire series has been very very intersting and educational.