Florence’s Once Abandoned Orphan

DavidYou do know that the 17 foot statue in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria is an imposter, a body double of Michelangelo’s David. The original “Davida” is safely housed under a doomed rotunda in Florence’s Accademia Gallery safe from the elements and the city’s roosting pigeons. After all, he’s been through a lot and the somewhat insulated environment of a museum seems a safe and sound place for David to call home.

For almost 400 years he stood in front of the town hall subject to the vagaries of Florentine politics which were not for the faint of heart. In 1527 he lost his left arm and hand in a civil disturbance when opponents of the government hurled stones at the statue. Before that he was an abandoned orphan, an unfinished block of marble for almost 20 years. He was thought to be too massive in size, too difficult to work with and of poor quality. It wasn’t until Michelangelo took an interest in this partially chiseled block of marble that he came to life. First as a proud symbol of the Florentine Republic, then as an expression of classic antiquity and sculptural greatness and now one of the most copied and recognizable figures in the world.

Today David’s celebrity goes way beyond the original intent when it was set in the piazza in 1504. Florence’s one abandoned orphan can be found on everything from refrigerator magnets to men’s cologne. Viewing David is an obligatory part of a “show and tell ” tour of Florence making David one of the most sought after celebrities in the world. Having a body double is certainly understandable.