Michelangelo’s David

Today we visited the Accademia Gallery in Florence,  the home of Michelangelo’s David.

The hall leading up to the statue of David inclues four unfinished works of Michelangelo. In his lifetime, he only finished a third of the statues he started. This statue, of a slave, is depicted as struggling mightily; this is because Michelangelo said that he strove to free the figure from within the marble. image

The David.

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It was carved from an inferior piece of marble which had been lying in the workshop for eighty years. Nobody wanted to use it. The triangular shape was odd and the color was not pure. However, Michelangelo, the original artiste, full of himself and with something to prove, said “I will make pefection out of imperfection. I will use this piece of marble.” He succeeded, although because of the poor quality of the marble, if even a small earthquake hits Florence, David will likely crumble into pieces. The museum is working to put the entire statue on rollers which could absorb the shock. Also because of the odd original shape of the marble, David’s head is perfectly flat on top.

The new philosophy of humanism is evident in several aspects of the statue.

First, David’s expression is not haughty, distant or neutral; his face very clearly shows his anxiety about facing Goliath. This elevation of common human emotions was unusual; prior to this, heroes were heroes preceisly because of the vast distance between them and ordinary men.

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Second, the stone in his hand is only visible from the back. Symbols such as Herakles’ club or David’s stone were traditionally placed in front. By placing the identifying symbol out of the way, Michelangelo brings David closer to being an Every Man.

The myth of David had political connotations as well, on two levels: the city of Florence was surrounded by city-states that were much larger and stronger. Within the city, the citizens had recently pushed back against the power and might of the Medicis, who had ruled it.

The next room of the museum, the Eighteenth Century Room, was filled with plaster models. The students submitted these models and the winner was allowed to create it in marble. Each statue is covered with nails, which could be used to plot the shape of the statue onto the marble block, should that student win.
More later!

 

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