David's sculptures in Florence: a documentary chronicles all the Davids in Tuscany's capital city

Thursday, March 30, 2023 at 6 p.m. in Florence, at Teatro Nicolini (free admission) will be presented 'David's Sculptures in Florence Between History and Symbol': a choral documentary on one of the city's iconic figures.

A biblical hero, David, the young King of Judah and Israel who defeats the giant Goliath, is a symbolic figure of good fighting against evil, who, over the centuries, has fascinated so many artists that he has been the subject of various sculptures from the Renaissance and beyond. David’s Sculptures in Florence between History and Symbol is a video production made by some of the most important Florentine cultural institutions to narrate and show just the Davids found in the Tuscan capital. A project conceived during the period of confinement due to the pandemic in order to keep active and cultivate the dialogue between museums and cultural institutions in general, thus establishing a fruitful collaborative relationship between important entities in the area.

David’s Sculptures in Florence between History and Symbol is the brainchild of Cecilie Hollberg, director from the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, and Paola d’Agostino, director of the Bargello Museums, with the collaboration of Claudio Rocca, director of the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence, involving the Culture Department of the City of Florence and the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore.

Five sculptures in marble and bronze - masterpieces by Andrea Pisano, Donatello, Verrocchio and Michelangelo - depict David and have strongly marked different aspects of Florentine art and history, from the commitment to the cathedral statues, to the sophisticated early Medici patronage, to a symbol of the Florentine Republic, then to the Medici collecting to the nineteenth-century moves.

In the Museo dell’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore, we find the first statue representing the biblical figure, a 1336 marble work by Andrea Pisano for the main facade of Giotto’s Campanile, a David in his prime, seen as a poet with, in his hands, the scroll of the first of the Psalms. Three statues crucial to iconography and stylistic development, on the other hand, are kept at the National Museum of the Bargello: two by Donatello-the youthful David in marble, from 1408-1409, the celebrated David in bronze, from around 1440, the first nude statuary since Ancient Rome-along with one by Andrea del Verrocchio, also in bronze, made between 1472-1475. Michelangelo’s David, made between 1501 and early 1504, on the other hand, is kept at the Accademia Gallery and is recognized as an icon of Renaissance art worldwide. The Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore is involved in this project not only as the “custodian” of Pisano’s first David, but especially as the commissioner of Donatello’s marble David and Michelangelo’s David, originally intended for the spurs of the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and transferred, after various vicissitudes, the former to the Museo Nazionale del Bargello and the latter to the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence. Also preserved in Florence are the three later copies of Michelangelo’s David, which can be found today in Piazza della Signoria, on the arengarium of Palazzo Vecchio, the seat of the Municipality of Florence, made in marble by Luigi Arrighetti; in the center of Piazzale Michelangelo, in bronze, the work of Clemente Papi, also the author of the plaster cast in the Gipsoteca of the Istituto d’Arte di Porta Romana.

David’s Sculptures in Florence between History and Symbol aims to retrace and deepen the link between these works with the goal of promoting historical and artistic knowledge of the image of David, as well as enhancing the cultural heritage of the Florentine territory. The video has a choral approach: through the voices of the directors Cecilie Hollberg and Paola D’Agostino, Monsignor Timothy Verdon, artistic director of the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo of the curator and art historian Ilaria Ciseri for the Bargello, the director of the Accademia di Belle Arti Claudio Rocca and Tommaso Sacchi former councillor for culture of the City of Florence, delves into art-historical, technical and commissioning aspects on these works, among the most celebrated of Renaissance statuary, tracing their connection to the city of Florence through the centuries. The Accademia di Belle Arti of Florence, the primary seat of higher education, specialization and research in the arts, was entirely responsible for the filming and production of the video, which was produced with the collaboration of Digital video students within the newly formed Audiovisual Laboratory directed by Juri Ciani and Giovanni Grimaudo. The City of Florence immediately espoused the project. On Thursday, March 30, at the Teatro Niccolini, at 6 p.m., the video will be officially presented to the public. Free admission.


“Next August 8,” comments the director of the Florence Academy Gallery, Cecilie Hollberg, “will be 150 years since Michelangelo’s David arrived in what is ’his home,’ the Florence Academy Gallery. The transport that took place in 1873 for the purpose of preserving Michelangelo’s colossal David was undoubtedly exceptional and groundbreaking, a true feat that tells of the importance of this sculpture. But the David is not just Michelangelo’s David. The purpose of this choral project is to promote the profound symbolism and artistic knowledge of this symbolic figure of the Renaissance and the city of Florence that unites and unites our cultural institutions. I am happy and grateful that David has allowed us to network among Florentine excellence.”

“This project,” said Paola D’Agostino, Director of the Bargello Museums, “began in the spring of 2020, at a dramatic time for the whole world, due to the Covid 19 pandemic emergency, with online meetings, which were followed by the first filming in the fall of 2020. We wanted to make our collections accessible to the public and to make the presence of some cultural institutions in Florence and around the world felt, telling the artistic and historical stories of David’s statues in Florence . Thanks to the collaboration with the Florence Academy of Fine Arts, L’Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and the City of Florence, it was possible to retrace seven centuries of Florentine sculptural excellence through some of its most iconic masterpieces.”

“Condensing seven centuries of history and craftsmanship into just over half an hour presented us with a challenge,” comments Claudio Rocca, Director of the Florence Academy of Fine Arts, “on the one hand to ensure a certain balance in the narrative, and on the other to be able to render on video all the beauty and complexity behind timeless works of art. It was a project we believed in from the very beginning, proud to provide our expertise and make a small contribution to the popularization of a part of the immense artistic and cultural heritage of our city. The final product, while essentially the first in a series of Academy-branded audiovisual productions, has the merit of highlighting not only a slice of beauty that is a heritage of humanity but also all the creative potential that our students and faculty are able to unleash through the languages of multimedia. This is an area in which we believe a lot and in which we have invested by activating, for example, new courses of study and specialization, up to the first edition of a PhD in New media for the communication and enhancement of artistic heritage. We hope that from this choral experience can arise a stable collaboration capable of translating into mutual benefit for our creatives and for the cultural institutions of the territory.”

“This film,” adds Monsignor Timothy Verdon, artistic director of the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, “made with the contribution of multiple institutions and multiple Florentine experts marries art, faith, and love for the city and its unique cultural and human heritage.”

“An initiative born during the pandemic that has seen a beautiful synergy between different realities, demonstrating both the ability to team up and tenacity and resilience in the face of a dramatic and complex moment like the one faced during the hardest periods of the Covid-19 emergency,” said Deputy Mayor and Councillor for Culture of the City of Florence Alessia Bettini. “A great work has come to an end that is in fact a journey through history starting with one of the most iconic figures of the city’s cultural heritage, and it analyzes and narrates sculptural works that have played a leading role over the centuries, deeply marking Florentine art. Truly significant that around this project there has been a choral commitment of central institutions in the Florentine cultural scene and beyond.”

David's sculptures in Florence: a documentary chronicles all the Davids in Tuscany's capital city
David's sculptures in Florence: a documentary chronicles all the Davids in Tuscany's capital city

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