Size doesn’t matter and David can prove it.
Michelangelo’s David was carved in 1500, and now, more than 500 years later, we still consider it to be the world’s greatest sculpture. David represents much more than just a Biblical story, or the mastery of its artist, since its completion, David has become the symbol of the ideal man, the greatest representation of the ultimate masculine beauty nature can offer.
Well, let’s start this from the beginning. I love Florence, it is a beautiful city that overflows with history and art, a perfect place for people like me. But if I had to name one piece of art that convinced me to go to Florence, yeah, of course, it was David.
I had only 2 days in Florence, but if there was one thing I couldn’t miss, was to pay a visit to the Galleria dell’Accademia. To be honest, at first, I thought the museum was too small, and this disappointed me a little, but once you turn into that rather yellowish, kind of dark corridor, and see David standing in all his glory, in the contrasting white dome, all lights and eyes on him, I ended up spending so much time admiring David that suddenly the museum became too big, and I didn’t even have time to give proper attention to the other artworks.
The amount of people buzzing around David and waiting for a chance to come closer to him already proves we are not talking about an ordinary statue.
The Attributes of David
David is the first colossal statue created in the modern period, with more than 5 meters in height. Although there were more statues of David, made by different artists of the time, Michelangelo’s is the first of its kind. In it, David is depicted as a young man, his neck is tense and his veins are visible in his hands, he gazes at the horizon as if waiting.
Different from other artists, that depicted David Victorious, usually holding Goliath’s head, or with the Giant’s head on the ground, Michelangelo’s David on the other hand, is depicted before the battle, in tension, waiting for the unknown.
Despite some disproportions in the size of his hand and head (this was probably made on purpose, due to the fact David was intended to be placed in Florence Cathedral’s roofline, so the enlargement of some parts would favor visibility from below, while other believe it was due to the block’s shape, deemed unworkable before Michelangelo put his hand on it), David is a masterpiece when we talk about the human body, the work done in this massive marble block, and the details included in it, shows the deep knowledge Michelangelo had in terms of anatomy.
The artist manages to give a sense of movement and strength to David, bestowing energy to a hard and cold piece of rock, David’s face expresses a mix of of tension pre-battle and attentiveness, watching the horizon in search of the enemy.
In his right hand, he holds the string, that bypasses his back, while his slingshot rests in his left hand, ready to be used.
The Pee-pee drama
Before people on the back start talking about the size of his friend down there. This seems also to be on purpose. Let’s first remember we are talking about a young man, less than 20 years old, some believe he was around 15. Understandably, his body was not completely formed, and maybe this is what Michelangelo wanted to depict.
On the other hand, it is important to notice the similarities between this Renaissance statue to the Greek ones. Greeks also used to depict men with small members back then as they believed small sizes were linked to intellectual pursuits. Maybe this was Michelangelo’s inspiration.
This Greek similarity maybe, explains another drama related to this pee-pee. David’s statue still displays the foreskin, which goes against the Judaic practice of circumcision, and it is here that the Greek influence can play a role too.
Greeks were famous for having a thing for penises, they were very specific when the matter was beautiful members, and one of the requirements was that it was completely covered by the foreskin. So maybe Michelangelo was influenced by the Greeks again here, depicting something that seems inaccurate to the reality of the real David from the Bible.
The Placement of David
David was supposed to be placed on Florence Cathedral’s roofline, but a sculpture as great as this had to be placed closer to people’s eyes, not only because David looked beautiful, but actually because he was way too heavy to be lifted into the sky and placed and the Cathedral’s roofline.
A committee was created, with 30 citizens, including other famous artists such as Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli to decide the right site to display David. In the end, Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s town hall was elected as the appropriate site, and David was placed in front of the building, next to its entrance, replacing another sculpture, Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes.
It took 3 days and 40 men to move the statue from the Cathedral’s workshop to the Piazza della Signoria. David was put in a wooden cart and pushed to the Palazzo Vecchio.
To preserve the statue, it was moved to the Gallery della Accademia in 1873, where we can still admire him today.
David is a symbol of the Renaissance, a masterpiece of Michelangelo, and a timeless example of male beauty. It is one of the highlights of Florence and one of the most visited sculptures in the world.
We saw that this perfect sculpture has its imperfections, but so do we all, and at the end of the day, when you look at the whole picture, these imperfections are so small, that they become imperceptible amidst so much beauty and detail.
Michelangelo’s David remains one of the most beautiful artworks to be seen, stealing sighs even from those who don’t know much about art, so if you happen to be passing by Florence, don’t miss the chance to pay our dear David, a visit.