Michelangelo's David was unveiled in Florence 509 years ago today.
It had been commissioned 40 years earlier from another sculptor, to go on the Cathedral roof, but he only got as far as shaping out the torso before downing tools, for reasons unknown. The giant lump of marble lay in the workshop until the 26-year-old Michelangelo persuaded the authorities that he was the man to finish the job.
He took two and a half years, and as he neared completion everyone realised there was no chance of heaving it up on to the duomo's east end. It was placed at the entrance to the town hall, a symbol of the proud Florentine Republic, the eyes turned toward Rome with a warning glare. It stayed there until 1873, when it was moved to the city's Accademia gallery and replaced by a replica. Now faux Davids grace casinos the world over.
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