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13 September 2009

On this day in history: Michelangelo began work on his sculpture of David, 1501

In the mid-fifteenth-century the Operai - a group responsible for overseeing work on the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence - commissioned twelve large sculptures of Old Testament figures for the cathedral's buttresses. They arranged the purchase and transportation of a large piece of marble for a sculpture of David, King of the Israelites. The Operai first commissioned Agostini di Duccio and then Antonio Rossellino to work on the sculpture but neither made much progress, and the block, which became known as 'The Giant' lay outside the cathedral workshop for twenty-five years.

In 1501 the Operai decided to find an sculptor capable of turning 'The Giant' into a work of art. They consulted Leonardo da Vinci and others but the twenty-six year old Michaelangelo persuaded them to give him the commission. He received the official contract in August of that year and on 13th September he began work on the statue.

Michaelangelo worked on the statue for the next three years, producing a seventeen foot (5.17m) representation of a naked David at the moment he decided to fight Goliath. In January 1504, with the statue nearing completion, a committee of artists including da Vinci and Botticelli convened to decide the best location for the statue. Eventually they decided to a position in the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio, the Florentine seat of government, where it was unveiled on 8th September 1504. The statue remained there until 1873 when it was relocated to the Accademia Gallery in the city. A replica was placed in its original position in 1910.

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Grace said...

wow. it took them 25 years to find a suitable artist! way to go michaelangelo!

Stepterix said...

Thanks for the comment.