Why can’t we see David outside anymore?
It was September 8th in the year 1504, when one of the world’s greatest masterpieces was about to be reveled at the Palazzo della Signoria in Florence. It was ‘David’ by Michelangelo. People were wowing and chanting how beautiful David was, paying their appreciation to the great artist Michelangelo. David has symbolized the power of the Florentine Republic ever since. It is indeed, majestic. This strikingly beautiful 17ft tall white marble statue that is representing Biblical hero David was standing tall at the spot for 370 years.
Now he is located in the Accademia Gallery (Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze).
Michelangelo’s David differs from other previous art works of Biblical heros, and especially other ones of David. Every other art piece featuring David was very literal: David holding Goliath’s head after the battle. You’d know what’s going on as soon as you look at them. But Michelangelo was not an ordinary man; he wanted something different.
How to read David
When you look at David, what do you see? A handsome man with a perfect body shape standing naked. That’s probably it. And why is he so famous worldwide? Because he’s handsome? Because he has perfectly shaped muscles? What about his big hands, big head and enormous feet?
First, the obvious reason: the anatomy of David is perfect except the proportion of his hands, head and feet. But we’ll get to it later. Michelangelo was a master of the human body. He secretly studied human bodies by dissecting them. There is another speculation but who knows if that’s true. Anyway he knew exactly what to do to show the male beauty. The veins, the muscles, and the subtle curves of a man’s body: everything is perfect.
Second, it’s very Renaissance. Meaning, it’s not so literal anymore. When the people saw this statue in 1504, they had to think ‘who could this be?’
The first clue: he’s naked. The only people can be represented without clothes are either the Gods or young boys. He’s obviously not a God so he has to be a boy.
Then who is this boy? There are a few clues: he is holding something in his both hands, he looks very nervous with staring eyes but we can’t really see anything. What is that he’s holding? We must go around and see. So people walk around David and see what’s in his hands. Michelangelo didn’t like painting. He didn’t like the world of two-dimension; he loved the three-dimensional world of sculpture. Every angle you see, there’s something different. When you go behind David, then you’ll see what’s going on. It looks like a rock on a sling.
Who do we know that is a young boy with a sling? Aha, he’s David! He didn’t kill Goliath yet, but he was about to. We can see it from his eyes. Even though he didn’t actually do anything yet, we all know what he’s about to do. Every single painting and sculpture piece shows what he did, but not Michelangelo. He opened up the world of Renaissance.
Third, the size of hands, heads and feet are intentional. There are a lot of different interpretations on this subject, but what I think most probable is because Michelangelo wanted to secure the structure of this sculpture. He’s not just standing; he’s leaning to his right leg while resting the other. By placing the wood stump behind his leg and making his feet bigger than usual, it is successfully supporting the whole body weight with one leg. The slightly tiled and oversized head and the left hand holding the sling are balancing the weights as well. David is very scientifically delicate as well as artistically important.
Oh, so why did David get moved?
Because of the bird poop.
The droppings of the birds, which is highly acidic, ruined David’s beautiful marble hair. No surprises there. The poor boy was standing for 370 years in the open square. There are more theories about relocation of David and the no-photo rule. But we’ll leave it that. After all, the most important fact is this 500 year-old masterpiece is secure under the roof, where no birds can get him.
#Disclosure: Florence city stroll walking tour was sponsored by Walks of Italy due to our partnership. However, all the words and photographs are my own.