Considered one of the world’s most well-known sculptures of all time, David is a testament to human creativity and ingenuity, and has stood as a defining achievement for one of the greatest artists that ever lived. Today, the statue of David can be found at the Accademia Gallery, which is located in the city of Florence, Italy. It’s available to view by the public, and makes for a must-see for anyone travelling through that part of the world.
Started at the beginning of the 16th century, David was the creation of Michelangelo Buonarroti, which he began when he was only 26 years old. It took him roughly 3 or 4 years to fully complete, and was created as part of a commission. The statue itself weighs in at around 5600 kgs in total, with a height of 5.16 metres. Michelangelo carved the sculpture out of a single block of marble that was mined from a mine in Tuscany, renowned for the rare white marble that’s found virtually nowhere else in the world.
Here we will look at the story behind David and what inspired Michelangelo to create him.
The Commission For David
The history of the sculpture actually predates the work that was started by Michelangelo. In fact, there were multiple commissions already in the works by the time that Michelangelo began his work, with one, the guild of the woollen cloth, wanting to have a line-up of 12 significant figures from biblical history. One of the first was based on Hercules, a demigod that featured prominently in both ancient Greek and Roman mythology, and it formed the starting point for other artists at the time to take on commissions.
By the time that Michelangelo had been selected to create, the block of marble was already present, and although he was competing with the likes of Leonardo da Vinci at the time, he ultimately convinced the commissioners that he would be skilled enough to complete the project.
The Inspiration For David
The statue of David is based on the biblical story of David and Goliath, which can be found in Book 1 Samuel. In the story, the teenager David sets out to defeat the giant Goliath, but quickly found that he was overpowered by Goliath’s sheer strength. With some planning and skill, David was able to take his nemesis down with the help of a slingshot.
Many of the statues that Michelangelo had created of David were usually of him after he had won against the giant, where he was depicted with his head by his feet. For this particular statute, however, the artists decided to instead depict David before the start of the battle.
This is why the sculpture has an intense look of concentration, and why there’s a rock that’s hidden in his right hand, as well as the slingshot that’s resting over his shoulder. At the time, it was a truly innovative way of depicting the famous biblical character, and it was enough to make it something of an instant classic, one that would remain so even today.