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Bath time for Michelangelo's David

Michelangelo's David is on display in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence
Michelangelo's David is on display in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence  

FLORENCE, Italy -- The last time Michelangelo's David had a bath Ulysses S. Grant was President of the United States, Queen Victoria ruled Great Britain, Napoleon III died and Jesse James stalked the Wild West.

But now, what is probably the most famous statue in the world is to have a seven month-long public wash.

Restorers at Florence's Galleria dell'Accademia will begin wiping away 129 years of dirt and grime from the Renaissance marble statue from Monday.

It is the first time the statue has been cleaned since it was moved into the gallery in 1873 to protect it from weather and pollution.

Standing at 23ft on its pedestal, it originally stood in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio, but was moved in the 19th century and replaced with a cast because of fears of vandalism as the age of mass tourism dawned.

The statue, which was carved from a single block of marble from 1501 to 1504 and depicts the biblical hero who killed Goliath, established Michelangelo as the foremost sculptor of his time.

Michelangelo portrayed David partly as the ideal man, partly as an adolescent youth.

Documents uncovered two years ago claimed Michelangelo's David was carved from a block of marble owned by Leonardo da Vinci.

It is thought Da Vinci tried to carve a massive statue of Hercules but failed and abandoned the block, which was given to the younger artist.

Florence's cathedral works committee is believed to have commissioned the Hercules around 1498 but for unknown reasons Da Vinci never completed it.


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