David is still large and in charge, 17 feet tall, the most famous sculpture in the world, ever strong and youthful:
- Michelangelo’s famous sculpture David is celebrating its 500th birthday in Florence, where it was first unveiled on 8 September, 1504.
The Italian city will showcase nine months of festivities for the event.
“It’s now the time we really begin to understand how much David… can mean to our present and future,” said Franca Felletti of the Galleria dell’Accademia, where David is on show.
….David underwent a painstaking clean-up process last year to remove grime and sulphate deposits using distilled water and cellulose.
The restoration had drawn criticism from art-lovers who feared the statue could be damaged during cleaning.
The work was undertaken in full view of the public at the Galleria dell’Accademia and was unveiled last May.
The celebrations for David’s 500th birthday include concerts, fireworks, exhibitions and special memorabilia. [BBC]
More on David’s appeal and the restoration:
- Worked from an enormous block of marble, it weighs in at a staggering six tonnes.
Even to the untrained eye, the dimensions are overwhelming.
No wonder, then, that experts discovered signs of stress in David’s ankles last year.
Superintendent of city museums Antonio Paolucci explains: “He’s a good looking guy with fragile ankles because when Michelangelo worked his marble he lightened the lower part a bit too much.”
But size is not all that matters.
The statue represents one of the greatest achievements of arguably the world’s greatest artist.
“Part of the appeal is that he actually managed to finish the whole thing. Michelangelo was famous for not finishing things,” says Hugo Chapman, curator of Italian drawings at London’s British Museum.
….history reveals damage to the statue during riots in 1527, when David lost the lower half of his left arm in a riot.
And in 1810 the statue was covered with a protective wax and in 1843 an attempt to remove the wax with hydrochloric acid also stripped away some of the original surface.
David was moved to his current home, the Galleria dell Accademia, in Florence in 1873 for his own protection.
But in 1991 an Italian painter launched a hammer attack on the statue, smashing off a toe.
And in the mid-1990s the suggestion that perhaps David was a little bit dirty and could do with a clean engulfed the art restoration community in a bitter 11-year row.
In 2003 the decision was made to clean the statue using distilled water.
Critics howled that the method could seriously damage the masterpiece.
But in May this year the new-look, cleaner David was unveiled to the Italian public, apparently unharmed by his overdue spring clean. [BBC]
And though a figure of male “perfection,” pilates pioneer Alan Herdman says in real life David would be a wreck:
- Mr Herdman said: “Michelangelo may have been an artistic genius but he clearly knew far less than we do today about posture and the workings of the human body.
“If you look at him, David is sitting into one hip. He will have a weakness in one hip and suffer from lower back weakness and pain.
“His pelvis is all wrong. It is thrust forward and pushing into one hip. The right side isn’t straight.
“In the privacy of your own bathroom, you try standing in that position and see how it feels: not good.”
Mr Herdman also said a close look at the statue reveals that David has hammer toes.
“In other words, they are a bit clawed, with the result that the muscles in the front of the left foot must be weak.
“If you look at the rear view, you will find that that the right buttocks are not be as strong as they should be because he is sitting into the hips, and the weight distribution is all wrong.”
Mr Herdman did concede that David has a “good pair of legs.”
However, he said his ankles were also weak – as art restorers have recently found.
“As for flexibility, I would say that he has all the flexibility of a 500 year-old, 17ft marble statue.”
A recent study of David has also suggested that he had a serious squint.
The computer scientist who made the discovery suspects that the diverging eyes were a deliberate ploy by Michelangelo to enhance the figure’s appearance when viewed from either side. [BBC]
More on David from the Michelangelo site:
- The high point of Michelangelo’s early style is the gigantic (4.34 m/ 14.24 ft) marble David (Accademia, Florence), which he produced between 1501 and 1504, after returning to Florence. The character of David and what he symbolizes, was perfectly in tune with Michelangelo’s patriotic feelings. At the time, Florence was going through a difficult period, and its citizens had to be alert and mobilized to confront permanent threats. He used David as a model of heroic courage, in the hope that the Florentines would understand his message. This young Biblical hero demonstrated that inner spiritual strength can prove to be more effective than arms. His faith in God (“The Lord is my strength and my shield.”) enabled this young shepherd to overcome Israel’s enemies, using a mere sling, which is the only element in the composition enabling us to identify the figure of David.
Michelangelo chose to represent David as an athletic, manly character, very concentrated and ready to fight. The extreme tension is evident in his worried look and in his right hand, holding a stone. The meaning of this David becomes fully clear if we take into consideration the historical circumstances of its creation. Michelangelo was devoted to the Republic, and wanted each citizen to become aware of his responsibilities and commit himself to accomplishing his duty.
Michelangelo wrote in his diaries: “When I returned to Florence, I found myself famous. The City Council asked me to carve a colossal David from a nineteen-foot block of marble — and damaged to boot! I locked myself away in a workshop behind the cathedral, hammered and chiseled at the towering block for three long years. In spite of the opposition of a committee of fellow artists, I insisted that the figure should stand before the Palazzo Vecchio, as a symbol of our Republic. I had my way. Archways were torn down, narrow streets widened…it took forty men five days to move it. Once in place, all Florence was astounded. A civic hero, he was a warning…whoever governed Florence should govern justly and defend it bravely. Eyes watchful…the neck of a bull…hands of a killer…the body, a reservoir of energy. He stands poised to strike.”
With this statue Michelangelo proved to his contemporaries that he not only surpassed all modern artists, but also the Greeks and Romans, by infusing formal beauty with powerful expressiveness and meaning.