Michelangelo’s ‘David’, at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London

In this episode, we’ll be visiting Michelangelo’s ‘David’, at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Welcome to Art, Culture & Books with me, Anthony King.

In 1856, Clemente Papi cast a reproduction of Michelangelo’s renowned David in painted plaster, mimicking the original 1501-4 marble statue from Florence. This plaster cast, now at London’s V&A Museum since 1857, was a donation from Queen Victoria.

The cast can be traced back to 1847 when Leopold II, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, enlisted Clemente Papi, a skilled bronze founder and cast maker, to craft an exact bronze replica of David. The intricate form of David necessitated the creation of over 1500 individually shaped mould pieces, ingeniously fitting together within a mother mould like an immense jigsaw puzzle. To safeguard the integrity of the original marble, it was coated with oil, wax, or soap, facilitating the subsequent release of the plaster components.

Michelangelo’s David, a pinnacle of Italian Renaissance sculpture, was originally created between 1501 and 1504. Standing at an imposing height of 5.17 meters (17 ft), it marked the inaugural colossal marble statue of the early modern period postdating classical antiquity. Truly historic.

By Anthony King (c)