Credit: Jörg Bittner Unna CC BY-SA 3.0

ON THIS DAY: 8 SEPTEMBER 1504: Michelangelo reveals “David”

Michelangelo’s “David”, probably the most famous sculpture in the world, was first unveiled to the public on this day, September 8th, 1504, in the Piazza della Signoria, in Florence.

The statue, as the name suggests, represents the David who defeated Goliath in the bible. David was a favourite of the Florentines because, as a small republic, they were constantly threatened by external enemies in Milan, Venice, Naples, and the Papal States. Additionally, around the time the statue was sculpted, Florence was consumed with fear of the return of the Medici family, who had been expelled after the death of Lorenzo the Magnificent in 1492.

In its original location, where a replica stands today, the eyes of David point towards Rome – the Goliath – where the Medicis would soon take power with the accession of Pope Leo X, born Giuliano de Medici.

The statue took two years to finish, and was carved from a block of marble provided from the marble quarry in Carrara, a town in northern Tuscany. Michelangelo’s workshop was less than half a mile from the Piazza della Signoria, but the marble was so heavy that it took four days to move the finished David from the workshop into its final resting place.

The statue stood in the Piazza for three hundred and sixty nine years. It was finally moved in 1873, when a crack was noticed in the left leg, probably because the ground underneath it had shifted. David was moved to his new home, in the Accademia Gallerie, where he stands to this day. A replica took the sculpture’s place in the center of Florence. It remains the most famous sculpture in the world, and is now four hundred and sixteen years old.

Michelangelo’s David, first revealed on this day, September 8th, 1504.

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