It’s amazing to think that Michelangelo’s sculpture of David was just a giant slab of marble at one point. Interestingly enough, though, when Michelangelo began sculpting David’s infamous figure, two other artists had already attempted to sculpt the marble and left it unfinished.
40 years prior to Michelangelo beginning David, Agostino di Duccio had begun sculpting a figure in the same marble. It’s believed that Agostino’s inexperience with large scale figure sculpture was the main reason for his abandoning the marble piece.
The marble sat unused for almost 10 years before Antonio Rossellino decided to take a crack at it in 1475. He is believed to have left the marble unfinished because of its unstable and delicate nature. He believed the marble seemed unable to support any sculpture carved into it, so it was left unfinished yet again.
Michelangelo came around some time later in 1501, at only 26 years old, and worked with the marble for three years. His hard work clearly paid off, resulting in the widely acclaimed representation of David of Goliath. To add to his success, he also completed the statue without adding more marble or significantly cutting it down.
This piece helped Michelangelo secure his place in the art community, showing his true mastery for sculpture. He would go on to complete the Sistine Chapel and become one of the most celebrated artists of not only his time, but of history as well.