Some people don't believe in love at first sight, but I do. It has happened only once for me, at seventeen years old, but my love for David has never waned.
After our initial meeting, it would be 40 years until I would see him again. There were pictures, of course, but four decades passed before I walked down the corridor of the Accademia Gallery to view my beloved.
Now I live in Florence, Italy, so we get together often. I have found in the winter months I can have him almost to myself. Familiarity has not dimmed my adoring gaze, or dampened my appreciation of this creation. Every time I see his majestic presence, I am again enthralled by the perfection of Michelangelo's masterpiece, David.
But what did I know about him, really?
Recently, I had the opportunity to visit the Accademia Gallery with Dr. A. Victor Coonin, author of a fascinating new book about David, "From Marble to Flesh: The Biography of Michelangelo's David". Dr. Coonin's two decades of research brings to life the story, rich in conflict and controversy, of how David came to be and why he remains captivating to a contemporary audience.
Going through the security line, Dr. Coonin mentioned that David is the most famous and recognized statue in the world. Apparently I am not the only one who had fallen for the charms of the marbled man!
As we rounded the corner of the Accademia Gallery together, and walked down the corridor of the unfinished works, Dr. Coonin paused. Despite his familiarity with the subject, he, too, seemed overwhelmed by the first sight of David.
I found out during our conversation, that there was a lot I didn't know of David. For example:
*The gigantic block of Carrara marble that became David was quarried a generation before Michelangelo began the project.
*Two others were commissioned to carve the block of stone before it was given to Michelangelo.
*The David was seriously damaged in 1843 when acid was used to "clean it", and in the 19th century, it also lost a toe and broke a finger.
*It took four days to move the statue a half mile from Michelangelo's workshop to the Piazza Signoria, it took a day longer to move him to the Accademia in the 19th century.
*Originally, the figure was adorned with a gilded loin garland, and at one point was modestly covered up with a fig leaf!
*David's foot was smashed in 1991, when a madman took a hammer to it. The chips of marble provided scientists an opportunity to study the marble pieces and provide authenticity of the quarry location.
*David is definitely not holding a stone in his right hand. It is the handle of the sling.
To create this timeless masterpiece Michelangelo carved on a flawed piece of marble considered "too narrow" to produce a successful figure. Rather than choosing the familiar pose of victory, with the head of the slain Goliath beneath his foot, David is posed just prior to attacking. The defiant glare in his eyes, his stance, the detail in veins, bones and muscles...courage personified.
Dr. Coonin explained that even the usual critics were silenced when Michelangelo unveiled his finished statue, and immediately the city rallied around David. Here was the symbol of perfection in body, mind and spirit! Here was the symbol of Florence! And David's gaze...was it in the direction of Rome?
Over five hundred years later, David still captivates this city and the world. The Florentine, popular English newspaper here, backed Dr. Coonin's project through Kickstarter. The donations poured in and the book, like its subject, came to life.
I give David to the masses during these summer months. I imagine among the throngs of tourists and groups of students, there is a young girl seeing David for the first time. While she may not be able to articulate why, she will know she is viewing an amazing work of art. Perhaps, forty years from now, she will sell most of her worldly possessions, leave her family and friends, and follow her new love to Florence, Italy. I would certainly understand that!