At the end of the second gallery stands the statue that everyone wants to see, Michelangelo’s David.
Michelangelo was only 26 years old in 1501 when he began his work on David. He was asked to sculpt a large-scale David from a block of marble that had been rejected by other artists and had been neglected for 25 years because of having too many imperfections. Michelangelo accepted the challenge and worked in secrecy for three years to create a revolutionary interpretation of the biblical hero.
Earlier depictions of David had shown him after his victory over Goliath. However, Michelangelo showed David before the battle in this 14 foot tall sculpture.
“David is tense: Michelangelo catches him at the apex of his concentration. He stands relaxed, but alert, resting on a classical pose known as contrapposto. The figure stands with one leg holding its full weight and the other leg forward, causing the figure’s hips and shoulders to rest at opposing angles, giving a slight s-curve to the entire torso.” http://www.accademia.org/explore-museum/artworks/michelangelos-david/
In my previous post describing the Rape of the Sabines”, I described the use of plaster casts so the artist could pre-visualize the work intended. Michelangelo did not use plaster. He would simply start carving. Regarding his work he said “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” And also, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”
The proportions of David are somewhat atypical of Michelangelo’s other works. The head and right hand are larger than in proportion with the rest of the body, emphasizing David’s concentration and intended action. The original David stood in the Piazza della Signoria from 1504 until 1873 when it was moved to the Accacemia Gallery for protection. A copy now stands in the piazza where the original once stood. I’ll show that in a later post.
Some years ago, a man entered the Gallery with a hammer and knocked off some of David’s toes. Fortunately, the work has been repaired.
It is truly amazing to me that Michelangelo could look at a chunk of marble and visualize any sculpture, much less something of the magnificence of David, and then to chisel away all that isn’t David with this level of detail.
The photos truly do not do this statue justice. To stand in front of David is to experience true artistry.
The Gallery has many more treasure and I’ll share more next time.