A black statue of Michelangelo’s David lay in the main square in Florence, as in mourning, “a symbol of the pain and suffering of mankind today. A world that is prey to blind hatred and madness.” The Mayor of Florence dedicated the statue to the victims of Nice as while the life size replica of David had been planned months earlier its unveiling during the Michelangelo week coincided with the tragic terror attack in Nice.
It would be one of the rare occasions that tourists could lie in the arms of David, a rather odd pose for such a famous work of art, created yet again by the skilled workers from the Carrara marble area.
It brought to mind the many faces of David that we are exposed to, apart from the obvious masterpiece in the Accademia.
In the panoramic square overlooking the city – Piazzale Michelangelo, an elegant bronze copy of David adorns the square keeping a watchful eye on the city and the hoards of tourists at his feet.
I must add that one of my historian guides did suggest that she considered the copy a poor one as she felt David had a ‘floppy’ bottom….which I leave you to judge for yourselves!
The original David was commissioned to demonstrate the virtues of a good government, forever victorious against the enemy, represented by the biblical figure of David who killed Goliath with a stone from his slingshot. Many of you may not know that it was originally to be placed on a side chapel of the Cathedral hence the slightly oversized head and hands to cater for viewing from below. However on seeing the finished statue it was agreed that it was too beautiful to be placed so high up and better placed in front of the Palazzo Vecchio ( the Town Hall) as the defender of civil liberties and a warning against intruders.
It was only moved to the Accademia in 1874 after being damaged more than once in the public square, and it remains there today continuing to awe its viewers.
Curiously David was carved from a block of marble previously abandoned by another sculptor who considered it of poor quality, while Leonardo da Vinci contested Michelangelo for use of the same block. Legend has it when the Minister Soderini who had ordered the purchase came to inspect it, he criticised the big nose, so Michelangelo pretended to chisel away at the nose letting some marble dust fall to keep the Minister happy. Other more modern criticisms I have heard from many unabashed tourist who asks – Why do these sculptures always have small penises? “…small penises were more culturally valued… large penises were associated with very specific characteristics: foolishness, lust and ugliness ” For those interested in the full article click here.
And so this magnificent sculpture, probably the most famous in the world is also used and abused:
In an anti junk food campaign –
before and after Big Macs!
Or in trashy souvenirs –
aprons, magnets, statuettes
that abound in Florence,
and not so trashy magnets, that animate my fridge!
Still Michelangelo’s David survives it all and in his serene beauty remains the most spectacular sculpture in history and we are forever blessed with his presence here in Florence.