Today's art story ties in with the Italian theme from mid week. In 2004, I was privileged to study for a short while in Florence. Its a city overflowing with historic works of art. Here is my reaction, from that time, to Michelangelo's David:
There are many works can be written about but David is chosen because of the emotions that surfaced as I encountered it. In a word, the sculpture is spectacular though even that word falls flat in comparison to experiencing the sight, smell, and sound of standing in front of it. Breathe deep as you take in a hint of the flavor that the sculptor tasted while carving, chipping, and polishing the marble. Watch the crowd stroll, stop, point, and gasp in this room and you will not soon forget it. Their expressions range from pure joy to utter disbelief. I had listened to people talk about what a magnificent statement of humanity Michelangelo was able to create from a piece of stone.
It is slightly embarrassing to admit my response on hearing these statements was that there was no way any work of art could be that impressive. Little did I know that looking into David’s eyes would allow me to feel a glimpse into the soul of a great artist and a great era of history. I did not realize that I could stand – nearly close enough to touch – a symbol of the awakening of the human spirit. David stands strong and proud, solidly grounded and confident that even a giant cannot deter him from succeeding in this world.
The right hand – is this David’s human hand or God? – is large and relaxed as the stone he is about to load rests in his fingers. His gaze is somewhere between nonchalance and anticipation at being given this opportunity to slay Goliath. He positions himself and appears relaxed yet ready to move at any moment. My eyes focus on his foot of all things and it is then that I notice how Michelangelo has given us a sensual, smooth, and fleshy sculpture made from marble. The toe pad of David’s right foot is planted, yet slightly overhung, on the rock that is his connection to the earth and the flesh is pressed upward. The contrast between softness of skin and hardness of stone is breath taking. I continue to obsess on this small detail of a massive three-dimensional work of art that breaks away from any prior representation of the human form in Florentine sculpture. It is said that Michelangelo studied the ancient Greek sculptors, particularly the Belvedere Torso in Rome, to learn the precise muscle structure and tone that he gives David. The artist drew his inspiration from the ancient sculptors’ depiction of the physical body and churned it with the passion he felt as a human being to create a bold statement to the world then and the world now.