Michelangelo’s David in the Accademia di Belle Arti di Firenze is probably the world's most well-known sculpture. Michelangelo sculpted his masterpiece, based on the biblical story of David and Goliath, in 1501, at the age of 25.
However, there are a few things about the famous statue that you may not know.1. David was made from a discarded block of Carrara marble that other artists had rejected.
Michelangelo used an enormous piece of discarded piece of Carrara marble from Tuscany that two other artists tried to use, but had given up on it because they thought it had impurities.
Yet Michelangelo was able to find a way to turn the unworkable piece of marble into the statue we now know as David.
2. Michelangelo portrayed David in a way nobody else had ever done.
Previous sculptures of David by other artists focused on the story from the Bible about the young shepherd boy David defeating the bigger, stronger Goliath. They sculpted David with weapons and attire that represented him going into battle. Some portrayed him in a victorious pose as if he were standing over Goliath.
Michelangelo took a unique approach. He created a nude David that inspires controversy to this day, one who seemed fully human and vulnerable while also strong. His head and hands are larger than normal and his eyes were left unfinished to convey his intensity.
3. Hitler wanted Florence's art taken to Austria for his own art gallery, but Italian ingenuity saved the David.
During World War II, the Nazis plundered treasured artworks from all over Europe, as portrayed in the movie The Monuments Men. Hitler had been to Florence's Uffizi Gallery and dreamed of creating his own gallery in his hometown. But fiercely protective Italians foiled his plan by building a brick "tomb" around the David, as well as Michelangelo's Moses, to protect them from bomb fragments, and hid them away. Thousands of pieces were never recovered, but David endures.
4. The sculpture weighs in at the equivalent of 80 adult males.
David weighs an astonishing 12,478.12 pounds, equivalent to the weight of 80 adult males. David was initially intended for the Florence Cathedral, but the technology to raise the heavy statue that high didn't exist in that time. Some historians speculate that Michelangelo knew this and hence chose to represent him in a completely original way.
After the statue was finished, a commission of artists decided that the best place to showcase David was at the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio, which is the main town hall in Florence, as a symbol of power. Moving the statue in 1872 to the Accademia Gallery took three long days and was done by train. This was to protect it from the elements. The original David had a gold leaf covering his sling and his trunk, which had been destroyed.
5. David suffered a broken arm during a political uprising.
David's left arm was broken in three places during an uprising that occurred in 1527. It’s believed that someone threw a chair out the window of the Palazzo Vecchio, hitting David’s left arm, which caused it to fracture in three places. The broken pieces were picked up and then sculpted back onto his arm.
To learn more about tours that include the artistic masterpieces of Florence, see "The Ultimate Guide to Italy: Picturing Your Trip," or call Bella Vista Tours at 877-723-0802 to talk to one of our Italian travel experts.