David’s renewed lustre

The painstaking process of removing grime and sulphate deposits using distilled water and cellulose took almost a year, with the initial expert restorer walking off the job over a dispute over the cleaning methods that should be used.

However some pale yellow streaks and violet-tinged mould stains on the lower back remain.

Florence’s museums chief Antonio Paolucci said the restoration was a “minimalist intervention” with “harmless, very light substances”.

“David is still itself, only what has changed is his luminosity,” said restorer Cinzia Parnigoni, who applied ‘mud packs’ of cellulose pulp and clay to soak away the dirt.

Renaissance expert Agnese Parronchi, who was originally to undertake the work, had wanted to brush away the dirt in a kind of ‘dry’ cleaning, fearing water could harm the surface.

But gallery director Franca Falletti insisted that brushing alone would not be enough to restore David and give him the glow of eternal youth that Michelangelo had intended.

David will now be examined and dusted eight times a year.

The 4.1-metre tall depiction of the young Biblical hero who fought Goliath was first unveiled in Florence on September 8, 1504, and has since weathered much abuse.

In 1527, the statue was damaged during a riot in Piazza Signoria.

More than a century after David was removed to the gallery in 1873, an Italian painter smashed the second toe of the left foot with a hammer.

Now, experts are concerned that the statue’s ankles may not be strong enough to support 5,572 kilograms of dead weight.

A team of engineers will examine ways to stabilise the statue for the future.

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