This Day In History: September 8

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One of the world’s most beloved works art, “David,” the 17-foot-tall, 12,000-pound marble masterpiece by Michelangelo Buonarroti, is unveiled to the public in Florence, Italy’s Piazza della Signoria.

Carved from a single block of white Italian Carrara marble that had been rejected by other artists for being flawed, the massive statue depicts a nude David, the Biblical hero who used a slingshot to slay the giant Goliath.

The work was commissioned by the Opera del Duomo for the Cathedral of Florence in 1501, and took roughly three years to complete. The sculpture was to be part of a series of other statues to be located along the roofline of the cathedral. Michelangelo was only 26 at the time of the commission.

Upon its unveiling to the Cathedral Vestry Board, it was decided by a committee that included Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli that the statue should be placed in a more public location (plus, lifting more than 6 tons of marble onto a roof added a whole other set of complications). Once decided it would reside in the piazza, it took a reported 40 men four days to move the massive statue one-half mile.

While most depictions of David featured a boy, Michelangelo’s version was that of a muscular man with a sling in his left hand and a rock in his right hand. The statue is widely considered one of the finest examples of High Renaissance art. 

In 1873, after almost 400 years, “David” was moved indoors to the Galleria dell’Accademia to protect it from damage. A replica remains in its place in the piazza.