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Tuesday, 17 September, 2002, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Bathtime for David statue
David
David's ears will also be cleaned out
Michelangelo's masterpiece, the statue of David, is being given its first wash since 1873 at its Florence gallery.

Work started on Monday to clean the statue, easily one of the world's most recognisable.

It is almost 500 years since Michelangelo, thought by many the greatest sculptor and painter of the Renaissance, hewed the statue out of a single block of marble.

David
Experts hope to complete a detailed study of David at the same time
And it will take conservation experts more than six months to complete the incredibly delicate cleaning of the 5m tall statue.

The many tourists who pass through Florence hoping to see the famous work will not be disappointed as the cleaning will be mainly done outside opening hours.

The statue - commissioned by the city's guild of wool merchants in 1501 - spent centuries in the Piazza della Signoria square, being buffeted by the elements.

It was moved to its more protected location in the city's Galleria dell'Accademia in 1873.

"The work will be done gradually, and it will be difficult to see a dramatic difference with the naked eye," gallery director Franca Falletti said.

Lengthy project

A specially-constructed mobile lift will be used by the workers to avoid the need for scaffolding which would obscure some of the masterpiece.

The lift will be stored elsewhere during opening hours.

Experts have been working on the current project for 11 years, and they are hoping to incorporate a detailed study of the statue in the cleaning process.

Much of the cost will be covered by a Dutch group, the Ars Longa Stichting, which will donate 165,000 euros (104,000).

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Lee-Anne Duncan reports
"He last had a wash in 1873"
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14 May 01 | Entertainment
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