As one of the most famous sculptures in the world, Michelangelo’s David has been copied many, many times. Carved out of a massive single block of Carrara marble, Michelangelo’s David is 17 feet high and weighs 12,800 pounds, so every full-size copy was hard-won. When the original statue was taken out of the elements in the Piazza della Signoria to the protected confines of the Galleria dell’Accademia in 1873, a marble replica, also carved from a single massive block of white Carrara, was erected in its former location. The only other full-scale marble replica, made by Sollazzini and Sons Studio of Florence for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, is now in the gardens of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium museum in St. Augustine, Florida.
Casts were easier to accomplish and a lot more common. In 1873, that same year the original David moved indoors, a bronze cast of the sculpture was installed in the newly-completed Piazzale Michelangelo. Leopold II, Grand Duke of Tuscany, had a life-sized plaster cast made as a gift for Queen Victoria in 1857. That copy is now on display in the V & A’s Cast Courts. A fiberglass replica was created in 2010 and installed on a buttress of the Duomo of Florence, David’s original intended location that never happened because it was so supremely impractical.
A new replica has now been created using 3D printing technology, creating an acrylic resin version of the original that is a precise twin. It began in December when the statue of David in the Galleria was laser-scanned and photographed in highest resolution. The digital details were then transmuted through the alchemy of the 3D printer into 14 pieces making up David’s whole. The pieces were assembled by restorers at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence.
It was then moved to Nicolas Salvioli’s laboratory where restorers spent two months coating the resin statue with an inch-thick layer of Carrara marble dust mixed with glue. The team used this mixture to reproduce the bulging veins, the original finishes, smooth and rough areas, even chisel blows and flaws in the marble. The final product is the most minutely precise replica of Michelangelo’s masterpiece ever made, only far lighter at only 882 pounds.
The 3D printed David has been transported to Dubai where it will be the star of the Italian pavilion of the Dubai Expo held from October 1st, 2021, and March 2022.