Today in history, a very well-known, very handsome man made his debut on the world stage. Sure, he’s a bit advanced in years now, but his shaggy curls, square jawline and rock-hard abs are still as comely as when he was a whippersnapper. And, ladies, he’s got big hands.
I’m not referring to any of the particular spray-tanned, Muscle Milk chugging eligible bachelors chewed up and regurgitated by reality television of late, but to Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni’s David, unveiled for the first time on September 8, 1504 in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria.
Perhaps this David never got to kick back with a frozen daiquiri and watch succubi with hair extensions and acrylic nails claw at one another while laying claims to his virility, but I wager his backstory is a more stimulating one than that of Dirk, the ex-frat boy oiling his pecs poolside. Take a gander at the short, cheeky TED-Ed animation below to better understand David’s origins, for he was always meant to be more than just a pretty lump of rock. From a single block of white marble, Michelangelo expertly chiseled a celebration of the arts and of artists, of holy powers and the almighty Catholic Church, of a small gem glittering proudly among bitter, warring city-states, of the magnificent human form and of his magnificent knack for replicating it.
Michelangelo thrived on pulling out quasi-divine entities only he could see lurking in chunks of raw, stony material, and David certainly emerged as a paragon of biblical heroes with hot bods. Yet every work of art is greater than the sum of its parts, no matter how nicely toned those parts are.
Patronage and political circumstances dictate much of what is communicated by a piece of art, as can its specific location in the public sphere. Sadly, such enlightening contexts tend to be forgotten as the centuries pass and delicate objects are removed to institutions, a smidge ironically, for posterity’s sake. However, most fortunately for those who remain curious, art history is there to hold things together. Follow the in-video link for James Earle’s full lesson on Michelangelo’s mascot of Florence—deemed by some the greatest sculpture in the world— and perhaps pick up some new tidbits to admire about David besides his firm backside.