The Young Slave was a part of the "unfinished" series of Prigioni by Michelangelo which was intended to be used in the Tomb of Julius II. Slaves would appear many times within Michelangelo's sculptures. Perhaps he felt that their status in society was suited to the expression of emotion, just as with the life of Jesus Christ who himself is believed to have experienced so much hardship during his own lifetime. Religious themes have provided some wonderful inspiration to artists over the years because of the extreme nature of some of the passages found within the scripture. The sculpture was produced entirely in marble, and this medium was the artist's preference for a large part of his career.
Young Slave is dated at 1520–1523, produced entirely from marble, and can now be found at the Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze, Florence. It is over two and a half metres in height, and so would also be extremely heavy. The Accademia took in Michelangelo at one point early in his career, and other famous members of this institution included the likes of Artemisia Gentileschi and Giorgio Vasari, with the latter going on to become a highly significant art history. Visitors to the city will be excited to learn that David by Michelangelo is also out on display very close to the site of the Accademia, making it an important stop for any art tour. Despite receiving an impressive level of art education, Michelangelo always understood that in order to maximise his natural ability he would have to practice time and time again, throughout his lifetime and drawing was one of the mediums in which he did this the most.
In terms of Young Slave, Michelangelo actually produced a fairly identical design for a scale model in preparation for this much larger version. The layout makes the comparison an easy one to spot, but that item was only around 16cm in height. It now resides in the V&A Museum in London, UK. By producing these smaller versions the artist would sometimes be able to take them on his person and show to patrons, perhaps when attempting to gain funds for an existing idea. As his reputation spread, this would become not so necessary, but he still would do this from time to time in order to try out his ideas and avoid sinking too much time and effort into work that might not lead to a completed work. Michelangelo would therefore start with anatomical sketches, a limb at a time, before completing something more comprehensive and then potentially move onto scale models and then the final piece.