Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Adoring David in Florence

Caveat: Some of you may know that I am married to a man named David. “City of Silver” is dedicated to him. But this is not about my love for my husband.

Michelangelo’s David is one of the most iconic works of art on the planet: so pervasive an image that a person could be forgiven for thinking it trite at this point. Forgiven, but VERY wrong. True, tourists here can buy pictures of it on postcards and reproduced in statuettes of thirty different sizes. There are Davids on jewelry boxes, aprons, pens, key chains, refrigerator magnets, tissues, change purses, and boxer shorts. (I leave it to your imagination to work out which part of his anatomy appears on men’s underclothing.) Want a David umbrella or tote bag? No problem.

Yes, there is all that.

But then in the Accademia stands the original whose presence inspires awe and worship. Its perfection defies description. The ideal of human being at a moment in an archetypal story. The sling over his left shoulder, the rock in his right hand, he contemplates facing the monster Goliath. He is Everyman (and every woman) who must battle an insurmountable foe.

Michelangelo wrote the whole story in marble. The position of David’s limbs, the tension in his hands and neck, and especially his face. Fear. Determination. Strategizing. You can read his mind in those eyes, the furrows in his forehead, the set of his jaw.

I looked in the museum bookstore for a postcard of that face and discovered another reason to be amazed. There were several. Depending on the camera angle, David’s expression emphasizes one emotion or another. In some pictures, he looks more afraid, some more determined, the profile is almost serene. These are photos of a stone man. His expression does not change, but he shows you different aspects of himself as you move around him. How did Michelangelo do that?

We marvel at David because as we view him he comes alive.

Annamaria Alfieri


  1. You have a remarkable knowledge of and appreciation for the world of art. Are you a museum docent? tjs

  2. No, Thelma. I have no special claims in the world of art appreciation, just a life long passion for it. Lucky me. It speaks to me.

  3. Pat,
    I had forgotten how spectacular David was until seeing it again with you and the real David. Spectacular!

  4. Your description of David was superb. It reminded me of a quote of Michael Angelo's: "Man is the most perfect work of God. Man is the measure of all things."

  5. Robin, thank you so much for your kind words. A humanist myself, I am so happy to be reminded of that wonderful line. Michelangelo was, after all a poet as well!