Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

David: a big statue for the little guy

Everyone loves an underdog. And unlikely heroes don’t come much bigger than David, the young boy who slayed mighty Goliath with one shot from his sling.

The legend of David was immortalised by Tuscan renaissance artist Michelangelo in his iconic marble statue, originally commissioned to stand on a buttress of Florence’s Santa Maria Del Fiore cathedral.  

While artists such as Donatello and Verrocchio took the traditional approach of showing David in a pose of victory, standing over his slain enemy, Michelangelo depicted David in a tense moment of focus, before the battle began.

Concerns about the logistics and risks of placing a 6 tonne statue on the roof of the cathedral led to a debate over where David should stand. Eventually it was decided he should stand watch over the entrance to Palazzo Vecchio – where it took 4 days to move him to from Michelangelo’s workshop half a mile away.

David may not have made it to the roof of the cathedral, but in 2010 a fibreglass replica was temporarily installed there to reveal how the original vision would have looked.

More than a figure of strength and beauty, the statue of David symbolised courage, intelligence and a sense of civic duty deployed in a quest for freedom. Today he stands for even more, becoming one of the leading icons of Italian Renaissance.