10 Secrets About Michelangelo's David

Art Wise

Michelangelo Buonarroti was one of the Renaissance period’s dominant painter, sculptor and architect. In 2015, he celebrated his 540th birth anniversary. Till date, his work, his stories, his secrets and his famous David continue to surprise and inspire people. Let’s uncover some unknown facts about David – the Biblical hero, and a favoured subject in the art of Florence.

(Michelangelo Buonarroti)

10. David was sculpted from a cast-off

Michelangelo was particular about the kind of marble he used for his sculptures. But, for his most famous work, he used the marble that was stated unfit by other sculptors. Interestingly, this discarded piece of marble already had chisel marks. This infamous marble came from Carrara in Tuscany.

9. David’s mismatched hand

David’s figure is a representation of the biblical story of David and Goliath. The statue symbolises strength and an able-bodied man, who is ready to take over Goliath. The well-sculpted David appears as an ideal human form. But, if you look closely, David’s right hand is disproportionately larger than the rest of the figure.

(Painting Depicting a Scene Between David and Goliath)

8. David and controversies 

Over the years, David’s full-body nude sculpture has sparked many debates. In 1857, when British Queen Victoria first saw the statue at a museum in London, she was shocked by the sight of his genitals. A detachable fig leaf was immediately commissioned and kept handy for future royal visits. In fact, till date, many argue about the inappropriateness of displaying reproductions or copies of David in schools, dormitory rooms and churches.

7. David’s tall tales 

The story goes: When Michelangelo presented his 14 foot tall David to the members of the Vestry Board, they all agreed that it was far too perfect to be placed inside the Cathedral. And, after months of discussion with artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli and Giuliano da Sangallo, it was decided that the statue would be placed in Piazza della Signoria, the political centre point of Florence.

(Piazza della Signoria)

6. David’s lost treasure

In the original work, David’s sling and trunk were covered with gold leaf. However, over the years the elements were washed away, because of the statue being outdoors in Piazza della Signoria.

5. David’s pre-battle pose

Traditionally, sculptors and artists portrayed David in his after victory pose — triumphant over Goliath. But, Michelangelo chose to depict David before the battle. That’s why David is tense, and at the apex of his concentration.

(David Front Shot, Source: Wikipedia)

4. David’s contrapposto

David stands relaxed, but alert, resting in the pose known as ‘contrapposto’, or counterpose. This depicts a human figure standing with most of its weight on one foot.

3. David the Hero

David’s slingshot, which he carries over his shoulder, is almost invisible. This was done to emphasize that David’s victory was one of cleverness, and not out of force. He also exudes confidence and concentration, both values of the “thinking man”, considered as the image of perfection during the Renaissance period.

(Close Up of the Slingshot)

2. David’s duplicates

The most famous copies are seen outdoors in Florence. The first is in Piazza della Signoria. In fact, it is placed in the exact spot where the original used to be and the second copy is in Piazzale Michelangelo, though, this copy is made out of bronze, and not marble.

1. David’s secret mission

It is said that Michelangelo worked at David’s statue with utmost secrecy. History says that he first created a wax model of his design, and submerged it in water. And, as he went on with his work, he dropped the level of the water, and only sculpted what he could see emerging from the water.

 Inspired by the beauty of perhaps the world’s most well-known sculpture? Browse Artisera’s collection of sculptures here and bring home your own masterpiece!

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