September 8: David

davidIt was today in 1504 that Michelangelo unveiled his statue of the biblical hero David outside the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence, Italy. David is considered to be one of the masterpieces of Renaissance art, but did you know that Michelangelo’s statue almost never came to be?

David‘s origins actually go back to the early 1400s, when the Santa Maria Del Fiore Cathedral commissioned 12 sculptures of Old Testament heroes for the cathedral’s roof. However, only one of these pieces, a statue of Joshua by Donatello, was completed. In 1464, Agostino di Duccio, one of Donatello’s pupils, was commissioned to carve a marble statue of David. Agostino only got as far as roughly shaping the legs and feet and starting to form a hole that would become the space between the legs. The project came to an abrupt halt in 1466 when Donatello died and Agostino quit the project. Ten years later, another sculptor was be hired to work on the David project but was abruptly fired. So, the slightly formed marble block sat unused and exposed to the elements for 25 years.

In 1601, the masters of the cathedral determined that something must be done with the marble block that was supposed to be a statue. Many experts and artists, including Leonardo da Vinci, were called to determine what could be done with the giant block. Eventually, the commission was given to the then 26 year old sculptor Michelangelo, who had already completed The Pietà two years earlier when he was just 24.

As the sculpture’s completion date neared, it became obvious that it would be impossible to lift the six ton statue onto the cathedral’s roof as originally planned. After much debate, a panel of 30 prominent Florentines, including da Vinci amusingly enough, decided to place David in the Piazza della Signoria next to the Palazzo Vecchio, the city’s town hall, where it was unveiled on September 8, 1504. In 1873 the statue was removed from the plaza and put on display in Florence’s Accademia Gallery. Since 1910, a replica of David has stood at the statue’s original site.

Since the statue’s unveiling, it has served as a symbol of Florence. This particular interpretation of the biblical hero is interesting for two reasons: The first is that it’s done in the style of classical nudes, which was uncommon for religious statues of the time. The second is that unlike most depictions of David, Michelangelo’s David, does not depict the hero holding the head of the defeated Goliath. Instead, David is depicted just before battle, preparing his slingshot. Some art historians have seen a political meaning in the sculpture, saying that David represents the Florentine Republic’s defense of civil liberties and the constant threats to Florence from neighboring Italian states. Along these same lines, it’s worth mentioning that when the statue of David was first installed, its glare was pointed in the direction of Rome and the Vatican.

So, raise a glass to young Michelangelo and his David with a Florence cocktail. The presence of pineapple juice make me doubt that this drink was invented in the Italian city, but it’s a refreshing quaff that will be right up your alley if you’re a pineapple fan.

Florence

  • 1 ounce Light Rum
  • 1 ounce pineapple juice
  • 1 dash simple syrup
  • 1 dash lemon juice
  • 1 dash white Crème de Menthe

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Tomorrow: A computer bug.

 

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