First unveiled in 1504, the Statue of David by Michelangelo is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture and stands with the Pieta as one of his most enduring works. Revolutionary at the time, the artist portrays the young king David at the moment that he decides to engage Goliath. The marble statue is the signature attraction of the Accademia Gallery and is one of the lasting images of Florence.
Once merely a 17-foot tall chunk of marble, Michelangelos statue of David was created to commemorate the independence of the Florentine Republic. The biblical youth who bested the giant became a symbol for the city"s nascent freedom, the embodiment of the idea that creativity and inner strength is more effective than sheer brawn. Michelangelo himself described the marble sculpture as showing the body as a reservoir of energy - his statue of David was an attempt to portray a body that was larger than all other mortal biblical characters, and truly larger than life.
Though other famous artisans of the time - most notably Leonardo Da Vinci - were approached by Florentine leaders to construct the biblical hero, Michelangelo was given the official contract to undertake the work. During this era of the Renaissance, sculpture was considered the consummate art form, and the statue of David by Michelangelo was the pinnacle of this belief. Michelangelo"s statue was revolutionary, because David is depicted before his battle with Goliath and not after the giant"s defeat. All bulging veins and watchful eyes, the statue is meant to convey the motion of a hero headed towards battle.
Begun when he was merely 29, Michelangelos statue of David took over three years for the master to complete. Many of his journals at the time have been preserved to this day, giving modern admirers an intimate view into the statue"s creation. Even 500 years later, thousands upon thousands flock to the Accademia Gallery to witness his masterpiece, cruelly eschewing his lesser works that line the cavernous aisle leading to Michelangelos statue of David. But for intrepid art lovers, the four statues created by the master collectively labeled Prisoners and Slaves are able to exist on their own merits, despite its second billing in the Gallery.
Because the statue of David by Michelangelo will always be one of the signature pieces of the entire Renaissance movement, an excursion into Florence that ignores this significant piece of art history is almost inconceivable. It certainly would be to the Florentines at the time of its inception, when the smooth marble was symbolic not only of past victories, but of glorious things to come.