A project to clean Michelangelo's David in Florence using water is finally underway, despite objections from international art experts. A row erupted earlier this year over whether to use a dry or a wet cleaning technique on the masterpiece.

The sculpture which will remain visible to tourists throughout restoration is being cleaned up for its 500th "birthday" next year. Packs of cellulose pulp soaked in distilled water are being applied to the white Carrara marble of the statue to wash away centuries worth of grime. The technique has already been used on Michelangelo's unfinished "Slaves", also in the Galleria dell'Accademia.

The project is due to be completed by next spring and will cost around 365,000, which will be provided by the Dutch Ars Longa Stichting foundation and the Friends of Florence.