Florence art fans invited to David "makeover"

ROME Wed Jun 27, 2007 8:04am EDT

ROME (Reuters Life!) - Want to know how a 600-year-old man stays so young-looking? Now you can, as a museum in Italy invites visitors to watch a Renaissance statue of David have a makeover.

From Tuesday, visitors to the Bargello Museum in Florence can watch experts restore Donatello's 15th century bronze version of the Hebrew king, putting on public view a process that is usually carried out behind closed doors.

Volunteers from the Civil Protection agency, which has provided 200,000 euros ($269,200) to fund the project, will be present to provide information and to answer questions about the restoration process.

"We think it is important not to hide such a great work of art," said Luca Spoletini from the Civil Protection agency.

The statue has not been restored for at least 100 years, according to the Tuscany regional government.

Until recently it was feared that the bronze and particularly the gilding would be damaged by restoration attempts, but new laser techniques promise success.

The project aims to remove the "signs of time" from the statue and should be completed by the end of 2008, said Spoletini.

The life-size statue, the first freestanding bronze figure sculpted since antiquity, depicts David armed with a sword, standing victorious with one foot on the severed head of Goliath.

He is naked, apart from a hat and a pair of boots, and displays a boyish, almost feminine physique quite unlike the resolutely masculine figure struck by Michelangelo's marble David which was carved some 70 years later.

Experts believe that Donatello completed the statue in the early 1430s.

Described by fellow artist Giorgio Vasari as "so natural in its vivacity and softness that artists find it hardly possible to believe it was not molded on the living form," it was commissioned by Cosimo de' Medici, a great patron of the arts.

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