The first major work of Renaissance sculpture, Donatello’s bronze of David, was unveiled Friday after an 18-month restoration. The statue has been cleaned up with the help of high-tech tools.
The statue has reclaimed pride of place at Florence’s famed Bargello Museum and will be accompanied for the first year by a copy showing how it looked when it was first cast with gold leaf. During the final phase of the restoration the statue was closed off to visitors because of the sensitive – and potentially dangerous – tools being used by restorer Ludovica Nicolai.
Technological innovations were used throughout the process, such as the laser combs invented specially to clean the delicate gold leaf that still partially decorates the work.
The 200,000-euro project followed a major check-up on the state of the work, carried out early in 2007. The David was subjected to X-rays and a range of other more sophisticated diagnostic tests. Most experts believe Donatello (1386-1466) sculpted the sensuous work in the 1440s.
It depicts David standing with one foot on Goliath’s severed head. Apart from a hat and a pair of boots, David is naked.
At the time of its creation, it was probably the first free standing bronze nude created since ancient times, it caused a sensation.
The almost feminine physique contrasts with Michelangelo’s powerful, masculine depiction of the biblical figure, sculpted between 1500 and 1504.
Donatello, whose full name was Donato di Niccolo’ di Betto Bardi, was the son of a Florentine woolcomber. As a teenager, he worked in the studio of noted sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti. Later, he travelled to Rome with the great architect Filippo Brunelleschi to study the monuments of antiquity.
Donatello’s dramatic departure from stylised Gothic art is credited with kick-starting the Renaissance.
The Florentine sculptor even anticipated the use of perspective that is often thought a painterly invention – as can be seen in his early bas relief of St George and the Dragon on Florence’s Orsanmichele church.
Other major Donatello works include a grim prophet called Habbakuk – or popularly, Zuccone (big head) – on Florence’s Duomo and an equestrian warlord in Padua called the Gattamelata.
Reprinted from ANSA