Michelangelo’s David, the most famous statue in Italy, is the one you should see. It was hailed as a classic statue from the moment it was unveiled in (“….1504to tell truth, this work outstripped all other statues both ancient and modern,” said Giorgio Vasari, a great art historian. The statue’s popularity has only increased over the 500 years that have followed.
It is a work that you can see 1000 times and yet, it surprises you with new details every time you look at it. It is impossible to capture it in a photograph or postcard.
It is a strange feeling to stand in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence and be surrounded by this magnificent marble. It is unlike anything else in the art world. Although it’s not the most emotionally or spiritually moving, it is one of the most inspiring marble sculptures in Italy.
Michelangelo’s David: All you need to know
Did you know that Michelangelo’s story begins with a mistake in the making of David?
Michelangelo was in Rome carving the Pieta for St. Peter’s Cathedral. Simone da Fiesole, a Florentine Master, had been given a huge block of marble to create a figure for Florence Cathedral’s roof. However, Simone da Fiesole failed to complete the task. As a young artist, large blocks of marble were difficult to find and expensive. Michelangelo, only 26, returned to Florence to appeal for the commission.
He was up against Leonardo Da Vinci, San Sovino and many others, but most importantly, no one believed that it could be carved into a figure without additional marble. Michelangelo is the only one who can do it. He declared that he could make a complete figure out of the one stone after inspecting the mutilated blocks. It is not clear if the trustees at Florence Cathedral believed him or simply figured that the stone wasn’t worth much. However, they gave the stone to him and he began to work.
Michelangelo spent three years working on the statue under strict secrecy. He chose David, the biblical hero who defeated a giant using only his slings and a sharp knife, because it was safe and familiar. To show his intended movement, he used a contraposto pose (weight on one leg, shoulders bent off the hips), similar to many statues of David dating back to the Ancient Greeks. He did not depict the hero at his moment of victory like all previous Davids. Instead, he showed him at the exact moment before throwing a rock at the giant. It is a moment of extreme emotion, almost cinematic in scope. This entire story can be told through form, posture, expression.
It is not clear if Michelangelo’s original statue was intended for the roofing of the cathedral. This is evident in certain elements such as the large head and large hands. It was clear that this monumental masterpiece by Michelangelo would need to remain on the ground after it was completed.
It sat for many years in Piazza della Signoria, Florence. There was gold gilding over David’s sling (which Michelangelo cleverly added to give it more structural support) and the branch of the tree near his feet. It was moved to the Accademia in order to keep it safe from the elements.
Make sure you walk around the statue when you visit. The expression is different from the side view shown in all the photos to the straight-ahead view, which shows the true ferocity and determination of David’s gaze. Take note of the muscles in the legs and arms. These hands are amazing! It is a masterpiece of sculpture and you should linger on it.
Tips for visiting Michelangelo’s David
The Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence is open from Tuesday to Sunday, 9.00am to 6.45pm. Last admissions are 30 minutes prior. Bookings are required for Saturday and Sunday.
The museum is closed Monday through Friday, except December 1 and 25.
The museum is open during holidays to allow for visitors. The museum will not open if the holiday falls on Monday. However, the board of directors can decide whether to open. They will announce their decision on the Accademia website.
Three types of tickets are available at the Accademia: Full, Reduced and Free.
Tickets are full price for non-EU citizens 18 years and older and EU citizens 25 years and older. Senior citizens are not eligible for a discount.
EU citizens aged 18-25 years old with a valid ID, and public school teachers within the EU with evidence of their status, can get reduced tickets
Anyone under 18 years of age, regardless of nationality, is allowed to enter the museum free of charge if they have proper identification.
For the most recent updates, please visit their website.
Only Green Pass holders will be allowed to enter the museum. Face masks are mandatory. The museum will also check the temperature of visitors. Anyone with temperatures exceeding 37.5 degrees Celsius will be denied entry.
It is completely wheelchair-accessible, making it easy for people with disabilities to move around the museum. The Accademia has a strict no photo policy. Guards will reprimand anyone who carries a camera around their neck. Do your fellow visitors and yourself a favor, and simply enjoy the art with all your eyes.
The Best Time To See Michelangelo’s David
The Galleria dell’Accademia has a line in front. It gets longer the later you go. Although it’s not as long as the line for climbing Florence’s Duomo, it’s still quite long. It can be avoided in two ways.
You can first visit the museum with a guide that includes skip to the line access. Online booking is also possible for specific dates and times. Tickets can sell quickly so make sure you book your tickets as soon as possible.
You can keep your itinerary loose by arriving at the museum no later than 30 minutes before the museum opens. This will allow you to be among the first to purchase your ticket that day. Booking is required if you plan to visit the museum on Saturday or Sunday.