Italia Icons – Michelangelo

It is perhaps the most famous statue in the world and a preeminent icon of the Renaissance, and of the city that produced the Renaissance…


Michelangelo’s David was first commissioned in 1466, though not to the artist who completed it. (He wasn’t even born until 1475). The commission originally went to one Agostino di Duccio, who made little progress and was removed from the project at around about the ankle stage. Antonio Rossellino picked up the job a decade later, but he didn’t last long either, and the block of marble – which had been bought at some expense from the quarries at Carrara – stood idle for a quarter of a century, slowly deteriorating from its exposure to the elements.

Then, in 1501, and fresh from his extraordinary success with the Pietà – a work that, unlike so many others of its type, actually manages to convey a sense of dead weight in the body of the lifeless Christ in the lap of the Blessed Virgin – Michelangelo, who was still only 26 years old, was brought in to complete the statue.

It took him two years to complete, and then a committee that included Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli chose the Piazza della Signoria as the site for its display. And there the statue remained for four centuries, until it was moved indoors to the Accademia Gallery and the full-size replica pictured here took its place in the Square.