Commissioned to stand on a buttress of Florence Cathedral, but on completion it was considered too good and a survey of respected opinions (including those of Leonardo, Botticelli and Perugino) was taken before the site, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio (where a full-size copy still stands), was chosen - against the majority vote which was for a site in the Loggia dei Lanzi. Michelangelo had already completed an over-lifesize Hercules, now lost, and the the confident scale of these works must reflect the intensive anatomical study on which he was engaged from 1492. (Vasari says that the early wooden crucifix was made for Santo Spirito in payment for the use of a room there (for the dissection of corpses). The block of marble from which David was carved was first blocked out by Agostino di Duccio in 1463 and then left. Antonio Rosselino failed to fulfil his commission to complete the giant in 1476. The technical accomplishment of his Roman work must have encouraged the Operai (the administrative body of the Cathedral) to commission Michelangelo to overcome the problem in September 1501. Its completion by April 1504, using no additional stone, seemed little short of miraculous.

The left arm was broken into three pieces during a political disturbance of 1527 (a chair was thrown out of a Palazzo Vecchio window). Vasari and Salviati collected the pieces which were later restored. The figure was moved from its original site to the Accademia in 1873.

Notes courtesy of Nicholas Wadley from the book, Michelangelo from the series The Colour Library of Art, Hamlyn Publishing Group Limited, London, 1969.