Have you ever seen something so beautiful that you start to tear up and a sense of awe takes your breath away? As I first laid eyes on Michelangelo’s David, that’s exactly what happened to me. I could hear our guide talking in my earpiece, but nothing was registering. All my attention was instantly sucked into the absolute beauty that was right in front of me. There he was, standing as if he was going to, at any moment, start swinging his slingshot over his head and deliver the blow that brought Goliath to the ground.
After getting my emotions back to a manageable level, my brain started trying to figure out how can someone back in 1501, and at the age of 26, take a piece of marble that two other artists had rejected, look at it, and then start to carve and chisel this much detail and emotion out of it. Keeping in mind that twenty-five years earlier someone else had started working with the marble and rejected it because of too many imperfections. The amount of dedication that Michelangelo put into every inch of this statue is visible in all the little details. It’s believed that he worked on David for two years with little rest until he was done. That is true dedication to your art.
When you look at David’s hand you can see the blood vessels, the tensed tendons as he grips one end of the sling, the details in the knuckles, and the wrinkles of the fingers. It gave me the feeling that those hands were accustomed to doing a hard day's work. Even the fingernails have a rough edge on them and not the polished even look most statues have. Looking at the rest of his arm you can see the tense muscles and the veins as they go from his hand across his wrist, along his muscles and disappear under the skin. Veins pop out at the front of the elbow and another one crosses over his biceps before disappearing under the skin. Would you feel a pulse if you were able to touch one of those veins?
Looking at his torso it almost feels as if he is holding his breath in anticipation of what he must do. The rib cage is extended and the pectoral muscles are tight across his chest. His abdominal muscles are contracted and you can see the skin creasing just above the muscles that lie underneath. He’s not portrayed as a muscular ripped hero from a fantasy but someone that represents a man, a healthy man. Getting ready for battle.
The way David is standing tall and ready gives you the feeling that he is prepared for whatever he has to do. His furrowed brow creasing in the middle, his lips that are slightly pinched at the corners and his concentrated stare all say let’s do this, I’m ready. It’s hard not to feel like he is alive. Like he could just step off the pillar and walk away. The confidence and determination that David has is awe inspiring.
David was traditionally portrayed after the battle with Goliath, with a sword in one hand, the sling on the other and his foot resting on top of Goliath's decapitated head. Michelangelo was the first person to depict David before the battle with Goliath. In all our travels before and after seeing David, nothing has come close to the way I felt that day when I first saw him. Every visit after still leaves me feeling in awe and wanting to study the details closer. This statue was meant to be one of a series of large statues to be positioned in one of the niches of the Cathedral of Florence's tribunes. But upon seeing the statue for the first time the board decided that it was far too perfect to be placed high above where nobody could enjoy this work of art. It was placed in Piazza della Signoria in the center of Florence and later moved to the Galleria dell’Accademia to protect it from damage and weathering.
If you ever find yourself in Florence, I highly recommend you take the time and visit the Galleria dell’Accademia and see David. I suggest going in to the museum on a guided tour and make sure you book ahead of time to save time, so you don't have to wait in line. You can also prebook tickets but be prepared to wait outside in long lines. You are also going to go through security so don't bring too many things with you and don't bring any large bags.
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