[Andrea del Verrocchio], who trained as a goldsmith before turning to sculpture and painting, succeeded Donatello as the leading sculptor of Florence after Donatello died in 1466. Verrocchio, then 31, became the favorite of Piero de' [Medici], the city's ruler and leading patron of the arts. The studio of Verrocchio soon became a training school for some of Italy's finest artists. The most notable pupil was Leonardo da Vinci.
This moment in history accounts for the most dramatic aspect of the present exhibition. Earlier Florentine sculptors usually placed the head of Goliath right between the feet of their Davids. In fact, the Goliath was sometimes used as a weight to anchor these statues, making them appear stolid and static. But Verrocchio cast the head of Goliath separately from the figure of [David Alan Brown]. According to Gary M. Radke, professor of art history at Syracuse University and guest curator of the High Museum exhibition, most American and Italian scholars now agree that Verrocchio intended the Goliath to be placed slightly behind and to the right of David.
The statue then endured almost two centuries of obscurity. The David moved to the Uffizi art gallery, where it was separated from the head of Goliath and from the original marble pedestal. Officials even mislabeled the statue as a young Mars. David was not reunited with Goliath until the pieces were transferred to the Bargello art gallery in 1865. Nineteenth century photographs indicate that the head of Goliath was sometimes placed as Verrocchio intended, slightly away from David. In 1916, however, the Bargello obtained the old pedestal, and David was once again displayed with the head of Goliath between his feet.