Michelangelo's David, sculpted from 1500 to 1504, is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture and one of Michelangelo's two greatest works of sculpture, along with the Pieta. However, it is the David alone that almost certainly holds the title of the most recognizable statue in the history of art. It has become regarded as a symbol both of strength and youthful human beauty. The 5.17 meter (17 ft) marble statue portrays the Biblical King David at the moment that he decides to do battle with Goliath. It came to symbolise the Florentine Republic, an independent city state threatened on all sides by more powerful rival states. This interpretation was also encouraged by the original setting of the sculpture outside the Palazzo della Signoria, the seat of civic government in Florence. The completed sculpture was unveiled on 8 September 1504.
Style and detail
Michelangelo's David is based on the artistic discipline of disegno, which is built on knowledge of the male human form. Under this discipline, sculpture is considered to be the finest form of art because it mimics divine creation. Because Michelangelo adhered to the concepts of disegno, he worked under the premise that the image of David was already in the block of stone he was working on - in much the same way as the human soul is thought by some to be found within the physical body. It is also an example of the contrapposto style of posing the human figure.
No statue more perfect
"In it may be seen most beautiful contours of legs, with attachments of limbs and slender outlines of flanks that are divine; nor has there ever been seen a pose so easy, or any grace to equal that in this work, or feet, hands and head so well in accord, one member with another, in harmony, design, and excellence of artistry. And, of a truth, whoever has seen this work need not trouble to see any other work executed in sculpture, either in our own or in other times, by no matter what craftsman." - Vassari.
"In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it." - Michelangelo.
Why do 2 million people flock to the Italian city of Florence every year to look at an enormous statue of a naked man? Why does a work of art created half a millennium ago possess such a timeless, universal appeal? What meaning does this 500-year-old sculpture hold for modern-day man?
The answer is simple:
No statue is more perfect.
The key to the David's appeal is Michelangelo's magnificent projection of man at his best - vigorously healthy, beautiful, rational, competent. It expresses a heroic view of man and of a universe auspicious to his success. Such a projection is of immeasurable worth to anyone who holds such a sense of life - whether that person lived 500 years ago or lives today.
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