Michelangelo's David as It Was Meant to Be Seen

A reproduction of Michelangelo's David has been placed where the original sculpture was meant to be displayed.

Standing on a pedestal high up by Florence Cathedral's dome, a 400-kilogram (800-pound) fiberglass reproduction of Michelangelo's David has shown today how the towering sculpture acclaimed for its depiction of male beauty would have looked in the destination first envisaged for it.

Commissioned in 1501 for Florence Cathedral, David was originally supposed to be placed along the roofline of the east end of the Cathedral together with a series of statues.

It never ended up there. On Sept. 8, 1504, after a harsh dispute over the best possible locations for David, the masterpiece was displayed beside the main doorway of the Piazza della Signoria. The sculpture remained there, at the mercy of the elements, until 1873 when it was moved to its present location in the Galleria dell'Accademia.

"During this weekend, we will recall the 16th-century debate. The fiberglass statue of David will appear in all the places mentioned in the dispute," art historian Sergio Risaliti, who conceived the installation, told Discovery News.

The spectacular event, called "David, the Power of Beauty," is part of "Florens 2010: The International Week of Cultural and Environmental Heritage," which opened today in the city.

Carved from a single block of marble that two other sculptors, Agostino di Duccio and Antonio Rossellino, discarded for an imperfection, the 17-foot (5.2-meter) naked marble man marked a watershed in Renaissance art and established Michelangelo as the foremost sculptor of his time at the age of 29.

Representing the biblical hero who killed Goliath, the sculpture was conceived as a religious work, according to Msgr. Timothy Verdon, the American director of Florence's Diocesan Office for Fine Art and Cultural Heritage.

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"Because of the special political situation of Florence in 1504, David was valued in a civic sense. The biblical figure was transformed into a symbol of the republican freedom, which at the time was under threat on many sides," Verdon wrote in the weekly Toscana Oggi.

David has raised passions and controversy ever since 1504, when political protesters threw stones at it. In 1527, the left arm was broken in three pieces during an anti- Medici uprising.

In the mid 19th century, it suffered damage due to acid used in the cleaning solution. And in 1991 a mentally deranged artist named Piero Cannata attacked it with a hammer, demolishing one of its toes.

In 2004 the statue was cleaned for the first time in 130 years to remove gypsum and yellowish spots of beeswax.

Photos: A fiberglass reproduction of Michelangelo's David standing on Florence's Cathedral. Courtesy of Rossella Lorenzi