‘David’ Michelangelo – The most famous hunk of marble in the world!
Eskimo has put its cultural head on and has taken a retrospective look at this inspirational Renaissance masterpiece.
Michelangelo’s classic, ‘David’ is widely regarded as the most famous statue in the world. Indeed, this Goliath of the Arts has long been celebrated for the sheer magnitude of its beauty & form.
“When all was finished, it cannot be denied that this work has carried off the palm from all other statues, modern or ancient, Greek or Latin; no other artwork is equal to it in any respect, with such just proportion, beauty and excellence did Michelangelo finish it”.
Now displayed at the Accademia Gallery, Florence you can gaze upon the perfection of the most iconic Renaissance sculpture depicting the Biblical hero ‘David’, as a standing male nude. Originally commissioned by the Opera del Duomo for the Cathedral of Florence, the original concept was to have a series of large sculptures adorn the top of the Cathedral. However, after two false starts with other artists, in stepped the most famous artist of the time, Michelangelo, to take on the commission and carved this exaggerated human form around 1501 and took him over two years of intense work, but with his unique understanding and passion for human anatomy, his dedication to the biblical tale paid off.
The ancient tale of David and Goliath tells the story of when Saul and the Israelites are at war with the Philistines. Two times a day for forty days, Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, would come out and challenge anyone brave enough to face him in single combat amongst the Israelites. This went on and on, until David, a young shepherd, accepted the challenge. with no other option, Saul reluctantly agrees and even offers his armour, which David declines as he feels it is too restrictive and arms himself with only his sling and five stones. As the courageous David faces the giant, David hurls a single well-aimed stone and hits Goliath in the centre of his forehead, flooring the champion, who crumbles to the ground and a heroic David victoriously severs his head.
The reason that Michelangelo sculpture was so revolutionary for the time, was due to the artist’s bold decision to depict David before the battle and not more commonly, as the triumphant victor.
By capturing David in the build-up to the battle, you get the sense of the tension and concentration coursing through him. His relaxed confidence in the classical pose known as contrapposto: where a figure stands with one leg holding its full weight and the other leg forward, this causes the figure’s hips and shoulders to rest at opposing angles, giving a slight sinuous s-curve to the entire torso.
The slingshot he carries nonchalantly over his shoulder is barely visible, emphasising that the victory was one of brains, not brute force and it was this perfect combination of self-confidence and concentration of the “thinking man”, that was considered the ideal during the Renaissance and why its influence still resonates today.
Upon the unveiling of David, who was resplendent in gleaming white marble, it was decided that he was simply too perfect for the top of the Cathedral and that a new location in front of Palazzo della Signoria was decided on, to allow viewers to marvel at the marble, and there it remained 1873, when it was moved into the Galleria dell’Accademia to protect it from damage and weathering.
Indeed, even to this day the pulling power of ‘David’ now means that he is on show, majestically lit by the skylight built to magnify his imposing beauty and to be admired by the millions of viewers who still flock to gaze upon him every year and that is the kind of iconic muse that Eskimo loves!