For Michelangelo David proved to be a defining moment in his artistic career. The story begins with a commission for a statue of David dating as far back as 1466 when the artist Agostino di Duccio began work on the marble block. Agostino did not make much progress, only managing to mark out the shape of the legs, feet and drapery, his work on the project ceased for reasons that remain unclear. The project was resurrected some ten years later when the artist Antonio Rossellino worked on the statue but his contract was terminated with no real progression being made.
The marble block, purchased from the famous quarries at Carrara, remained in the courtyard workshop of Florence Cathedral and lay neglected for the next twenty five years.
After the success of the Rome Pieta of 1499-1500 Michelangelo was recognized as a genius, a master of his craft.
The Guild of Wool Merchants wanted to revive the abandoned project for David, Michelangelo was the artist who was offered, and accepted, this prestigious contract. Working with a second-hand piece of marble that had deteriorated during it's years of exposure to the elements did not please the artist, however the Guild of Wool Merchants did state in Michelangelo's contract that the stone was "badly roughed out". The wording is perhaps intended to make it clear to the artist that the aged marble block (too expensive a commodity to waste) was to be used for the statue.
Michelangelo was only twenty-six years old when he won the contract for David. He began work on Monday September 13th 1501 and it would take him two years to turn the marble block into the iconic image that we know and admire today.