Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Above the Rest

Because it is late November, we have benefitted from the low season in several ways. Crowds are minimal--the longest we have waited in a line to enter a building is five minutes. We have had our pick of restaurants. Traffic has been typical of what one would find in any major city. And our access to the greatest works of art by the Italian masters has been unimpeded.

Yesterday, I walked right up to Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus" and orbited Michaelangelo's "David" as if it were in my living room.

"David" radiates.

Well, the original radiates. Three can be found in Florence. The original stood outside for three centuries before being moved indoors. Three centuries in the elements and no flash photography permitted today! (The image included in this post is a bronze copy overlooking Florence)

The original stands 17 feet tall, 4 feet wide, atop a massive pedestal at the end of a row of his unfinished sculptures--which are equally impressive. By viewing these works on the way to feet of "David" one gathers a sense of how Michaelangelo worked. He didn't start at the top or at the bottom. He started everywhere. He chiseled and filed all over a human form--slowly allowing it emerge from a block of marble as if it were some beast forcing it's way out of the rock.

And then, don't capture him. David has a presence. He glows. It stunned me. 

Our guide shared that while Michaelangelo and Leonardo daVinci were contemporaries, neither liked the other. Leonardo, the mathematician, went out of his way to criticize sculpture as an art form--it was dirty, hot work and closer to the work of a baker than being close to God. Michaelangelo, moody and friendless, countered that anybody could paint--painting is easy--you make a mistake and you could scrape it away or cover it up--but in sculpture there can be no mistakes. You must be immersed in your work to such a degree that you take no notice of sweat, or sunshine, or dust--you are as close to God in that moment, in the creation of beauty and perfection, that can never be replicated with cold paint and numbers.

It is common knowledge to say that Italy is filled with great art. I can appreciate much of it on its own merits.

But one piece stands above the rest.

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