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.