Michelangelo Buonarotti, David, 1501−1504. Marble sculpture, Galleria dell’Accademia, Florence.

Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564) was the quintessential Renaissance man, excelling as a sculptor, painter, architect, poet, inventor, and engineer. He enjoyed enormous success during his lifetime and is considered today to be one of the greatest artists of all time. Michelangelo began working on David at just 25 years old. The young artist chose a huge block of Carrara marble from which to fashion his version of the heroic David, the young shepherd boy who, against all odds, defeated the Philistine champion Goliath and rose to become the great Hebrew king. Standing 17 feet tall, this colossal portrayal conveys David not as the underdog but rather as a hero. The sculptor created his masterpiece by using the process of subtraction—chipping away at the marble until he was left with an idealized human male form. The image of this fully nude sculpture has become one of the most reproduced artistic images of all time: likenesses on posters, coffee cups, T-shirts, and statuettes can be seen all over the world. On the Internet, one company offering marble reproductions offers to provide a fig leaf at no extra charge.

Michelangelo, David, 1501−1504.

A West Semitic language, in which most of the Hebrew Bible is written except for parts of Daniel and Ezra. Hebrew is regarded as the spoken language of ancient Israel but is largely replaced by Aramaic in the Persian period.

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