The most likely explanation of its demise is that it was destroyed during the French Revolution, based on its location within the castle of Villeroy, Mennecy, France during the 18th century. Riots occurred during that time and the piece has never been seen since. The photograph included here is believed to have been a study of the completed sculpture produced by a local artist many centuries ago, and so gives the best visual clue as to how the final sculpture would have looked at the time. It was one of just a few bronze sculptures by Michelangelo, and so its loss is a great shame for art historians looking to better understand the full breadth of techniques that he used across his career. That said, there were several other lost and damaged items from his career and this is essentially an inevitabilty for artists from such a long period of time ago, particularly when considering the lack of preservation techniques until fairly recently as well as the highly prized nature of these items which might lead some to plan thefts on occasion.
There would be a great political battle over this particular sculpture, with discussion between different parties ongoing even once the artist had started to produce the piece. He was commissioned by the Florentine Signoria, with a contract signed in mid-1502. Pierre de Rohan served as French Marshal Giè and asked for a copy of Donatello's David initially. It was decided that payment for the project would be passed through in the military budget and evidence exists to support this claim. Michelangelo was in his late twenties at the time of this project and so was still building up a catalogue of works as well as attempting to bring in better and more influential patrons who could potentially bring new opportunities with them. A payment of 20 gold florins was made to the sculptor towards the end of 1503, suggesting that the baulk of the work had been completed by then, and correspondence between the parties involved suggested the patron was slightly unhappy with how long the work had taken.
It would not be until 1508 that the sculpture would finally be shipped from Italy to France and in the next centuries it would be relocated several times. Efforts have been made in recent years to perhaps identify this piece within the collection of major art musuems, perhaps with it being listed under an alternative name. Several suggestions have been put forward about different sculptures but no-one really is confident that any of these existing items are the original De Rohan David and so the most likely explanation appears to be that it was indeed destroyed. During the Italian Renaissance, artists would spend time in each other's company, particularly with regards their assistants in studios, and so there can be a crossover in work and some confusion at times over attribution. This piece is likely to have been completed entirely by a young Michelangelo, other than for the latter stages of finishing which were completed by others as he had relocated to another part of Italy by then.