Gold florin

Michelangelo left Florence in 1494, just weeks before Piero de' Medici, Lorenzo's unpopular son, was overthrown and the Medici were expelled from the city. He found no work in Venice, but stayed in Bologna for a year. From there, he travelled to Rome for the first time in 1496, aged 21. His reputation was much enhanced by the work he did there, particularly the Pietà. This extraordinarily elegant sculpture marked a turning point in his fortunes.

In 1501 when Michelangelo returned to Florence he received the commission to carve David. For his work he received 400 florins such as the one shown here. Florins were made of pure gold, weighed about 3.5 grams, and could be used throughout Italy. This was a good fee for a three-year job and an immense increase from his income as an apprentice some ten years earlier. Annual salaries of the period ranged from the 10 florins earned by a servant to the 100 florins received by a university professor.