Arts & Entertainment

Dusting off Michelangelo’s David

By Gonzalo Sanchez

Florence, Italy, Sep 25 (EFE).- The famous statue of David in Florence, sculpted from marble by Michelangelo over 500 years ago, woke up on Monday surrounded by an enormous scaffolding as part of the meticulous cleaning regularly carried out by the city’s Accademia Gallery to monitor its condition and guarantee future conservation.

“It is a very important job that we do on all the sculptures in the museum, which must be cleaned, dusted-off and monitored so that there are no bad surprises,” the director of the Gallery, Cecilie Hollberg, told EFE.

Art restorer Eleonora Pucci is in charge of the cleaning.

She carefully removes the dust with brushes in an unusually quiet room, without tourists and illuminated by morning light coming through a glass dome.

The following hours would require immense concentration as Pucci would have to gradually remove the dust from every crevice with brushes even as electronic purifiers are kept on to clean the room’s air.

The most difficult part of the statue to clean is the head – where the restorer has to scrutinize each of the hair curls in search of dust deposits and even spiders – as well as the face, eyes, lips or pubis.

Cleaning is essential because dust, filaments carried on the clothing worn by the around 1.7 million annual visitors or humidity from their breathing could darken the colossal statue.

The whole process is fully documented with photographs that are compiled in a “clinical report” on the sculpture’s state of conservation.

“We try to keep the museum clean in every way because greater control means fewer threats to the sculpture. The David is fine, definitely,” Hollberg said.

Michelangelo Buonarroti was only 26 years old when he was ordered to sculpt a colossal statue to crown the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, a challenge many that artists refused to accept given its sheer size and the low quality of the chosen marble block.

Buonarroti, who had already demonstrated his talent a few years earlier by sculpting the Pieta in 1499, accepted the commission, and started chiseling away at the rock in 1501.

The statue recreates the biblical king David before facing the giant Goliath, but, unlike other artists –such as Donatello – who represented him as triumphant, Michelangelo decided to immortalize the knight as a man prepared for battle with a slingshot on his shoulder.

The young king was represented completely naked, brave and vigorous, a perfect allegory of the power and independence of the Florentines.

Michelangelo spent three years finishing the project and received a payment of 400 ducats (gold coins).

When the David was revealed to the city on September 8, 1504, it evoked almost universal admiration for the apparent harmony and perfection in all the details, even in the statue’s veins and tendons.

The sculpture, 517 centimeters high and weighing 5,560 kilos, the first colossus since Antiquity, would not end up on the heights of the cathedral, but at the foot of the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) following a decision by an artists’ commission, which included names such as Leonardo Da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli.

Michelangelo would go on to produce other masterpieces such as “Moses” (1513) and the Sistine Chapel frescoes.

The colossus was moved to the Accademia Gallery in 1813, after witnessing several upheavals in the city’s history and suffering damage.

Even today, despite being placed under shelter and taken care of, the statue continues to face possible threats, including that of an earthquake.

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