04. Later Europe & Americas Art & Humanities Europe Italy Travel

The Davids of Florence from a “Dummy”

January 9, 2020

So my parents went to Italy this summer (see their itinerary HERE) and my dad got inspired to do his own blog musings. His disclaimer is that he doesn’t know anything about art history so his posts are “from a Dummy” but, as an art historian, I am fact checking him as we go along. So below is his first post on his reflections on art he saw while in Italy. Enjoy! 🙂

JMF


The title of this blog post is the Davids of Florence, the reason is that most people know the big white statue by Michelangelo inside the Academia Museum BUT there exists many “Davids” around Florence. There are paintings, so many paintings!, multiple copies of Michelangelo’s David, there are bronze Davids (most notably by Donatello & Verrocchio), and there are many pop art examples and commercial versions of him too.

If you do not know, the story of David actually comes from the Bible’s Old Testament. Here is an abbreviated version:

The Israelites were battling the Philistines in man-to-man combat but no one wanted to fight the hero the Philistines put forth, Goliath, because he was so large & scary. After coming up blank a shepherd boy named David volunteered. He was offered the armour of the king but turned it down for his slingshot. Goliath & David met face-to-face and David beat him (aka killed him) with a slingshot to the forehead then cut off his head.

David is commonly seen as the underdog here but Malcolm Gladwell has a fantastic book called David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (& a TEDTalk) that actually spins that idea on its head.

Now why is David such a big deal in Florence, specifically Michelangelo’s 14 foot statue? It was actually first supposed to be mounted on top of the Duomo (the Cathedral), which is why he is so large and slightly out of proportion for his current position nearer to the ground. Michelangelo missed the deadline, so they then decided put David out front of the Palazzo Vecchio (the town hall), where you can find copy today. (*there is also another story that the town leaders though his statue was too beautiful to go up on the bell tower). The idea of the David’s statue was supposed to inspire the citizens of the Republic of Florence, you can overcome all odds as the underdog.

On a side note, two things:

  1. Michelangelo believe he would actually free the statue that was already inside the stone.
  2. The slab of marble michelangelo was given to create David was rejected as being unusable by other sculptors.

So, it’s not what you start with, it’s what you end with (and what is inside of you) that matters!

RJO

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