On March 6th, the anniversary of Michelangelo Buonarrotti’s birthday I had the chance to finally visit the David. Upon walking into the Accademia there is no excitement, the first room is yellow tinted with unappealing lighting. In the center stands an early cast of Rape of the Sabines by Giambologna, the walls carry scattered paintings. Turn left and you enter a long hallway where suddenly the David strikes you. The hallway includes a number of statues by Michelangelo as well but they are impossible to focus on when there is the beacon of natural light meeting marble at then end of the hall.
It is impossible not to rush straight ahead to the David. He stands on a pediment, and although I have seen the one in Piazza della Signoria, I thought the real statue was smaller. This massive larger than life statue holds your attention. A large part of this is due to its position. A jewel of the museum it is almost as if the museum was built around this statue, rather than having it moved there later.
When I imagined David smaller, I imagined the viewer could meet his gaze, whereas in reality Michelangelo’s ability to create moving emotion shows through and David intently looks up to his left, as if meeting the gaze of Goliath. In reality, it originally looked to Rome, a message sent from the Medici Democracy to the Papal State.
While his gaze does not meet the views, the strong aspect of his hand and his overall presence within the space is enough to complete a sense of awe.
Once the viewer can pull themselves back into the moment, away from the statue, the other statues in the hall become clearer. Of these 6 other statues, 4 are Michelangelo’s unfinished Slaves, meant to be placed on the Pope Julius II tomb. While they may not seem “beautiful” in our eyes that are trained to see finished works as beautiful, they reveal a new part of the process. How does a block of marble become an inspiring work of art? Michelangelo carved from the front back, having the figures emerge. When looking at these however, it appears the reverse, that the figures are slowly melting back into the marble.