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David, the quintessence of Renaissance art

Michelangelo's David
Michelangelo's David 01:56

It's the centerpiece of Renaissance art in Florence, one of the most revered works of art on Earth: Michelangelo's masterpiece, his statue of David. In 1501 the Tuscan artist was just 26 when he began work on this block of Italian Carrara marble.

Michelangelo's 17-foot-tall masterpiece stands front-and-center at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence. CBS News

At first, he worked in secrecy on his depiction of the Biblical story of David, rock in hand, thought to be getting ready to defeat Goliath. When it was finally unveiled, reaction was a gasp of wonder.

"This is a masterpiece, an incredible masterpiece," said Cecilie Hollberg, director of Galleria dell'Accademia, a museum filled with Michelangelo sculptures, plaster casts, and rare Stradivarius violins. But it's David who stands front-and-center.

Jane Pauley asked, "Does it have any imperfections?"

"There are people who try to find imperfections. But there are not," Hollberg replied.

For nearly 400 years, the public marveled at David in Florence's main piazza, before it was moved inside in 1873 to protect it from the elements. A replica stands in its place. 

In recent years, an American organization called Friends of Florence has led restoration efforts, along with a group called Friends of David.

President Fausto Calderai says its mission is simple: "We want people of all ages. We don't want to have only citizens of Florence, Florentines; we want visitors from all over the world." 

Cecilie Hollberg, director of Galleria dell'Accademia, and Jane Pauley view Michelangelo's David.  CBS News

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Story produced by Jon Carras.

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