Poor Old David

Word around town is that Michelangelo’s David has weak ankles. But who can blame the poor guy? He’s been standing for 510 years in the same contraposto pose, looking beautifully innocent with his crisp curls and dashing gaze. Experts have identified small cracks that are making him frail – and when you are the world’s most famous sculpture and you have been carved out of a single block of marble, then yes, by all means small cracks are something to worry about.

It’s no one’s fault really. When Michelangelo was commissioned in 1501 by the city of Florence to carve this colossal figure originally as an outdoor sculpture for the city’s Basilica, he made use of a 40 year-old piece of marble that belonged to no one. This chunk, cut from the famous, gleaming white peaks of Carrara (that once upon a time supplied the Roman empire for the construction of their monuments) had had two unsuccessful carving attempts by local artists. In order to avoid the hassle of getting a new piece, 26 year-old Michelangelo decided to use this one. Unfortunately, recent studies have been able to unveil that in addition to his ankle problem, the mediocre quality of the marble is due to microscopic pores inside it that have aided the crackling cracks. These studies were only possible because in 1993 a crazy Italian guy snuck in a hammer and smashed poor David’s foot, chipping it. These tiny chips are our only source for learning anything and everything about him.

davidcensored1Hypothetically, if dear David were to collapse; break down; fall on his knees, possibly weep, and leave a void in his place in the Academia in Florence where he has been standing since 1873, what impact would that have on us? What would it mean for art history? I’m guessing it would mean quite a bundle, for what would history be without art? These broad questions give way to countless interpretations but that’s for you to think about and for me to carry on – or else my blabbering will see no end.

David is not just a piece of stone; he is the pinnacle of high Renaissance art! 500 years ago man had a higher opinion of himself as seen in the sculpture’s youth and strength. They were living a re-birth of ideas, a revival of highlights of the past that allowed artists to portray man as beautiful. David‘s idealized form reflects what man was like at a certain point in time, not physically but ideologically. Of course he’s not the only artistic interpretation of David executed; of course men didn’t prance around naked slaying giants named Goliath with a slingshot; but they certainly seamed more optimistic

So why does it matter so much if his ankles have minor cracks? It matters because David serves as a constant reminder of of how men used to see themselves, and so he challenges our very perception of ‘man’ today according to religion and modernism. He’s fit, barrier-less, bold,virile, ideally beautiful, and a standing ovation to craftsmanship and actual raw talent that SOOOOOO many artists lack today. Forget that the great Michelangelo carved him, ask yourself, who can master marble carving or any technique as thoroughly as he could, today? I think you could probably count them with one hand.

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8 thoughts on “Poor Old David

  1. Nice to read you again, Andrea, loooong time no see. The cracks on his ankles definitely are a message and you have interpreted it skillfully: the world would be a much better place if the cracks would be on Goliath’s ankles. On the other hand, imagine if the next commission would have been to carve Goliath: that’s a lot of work.

    Not to quote names, but I share your last reflection: I also wonder if the experts on preserving tiger sharks in formaldehyde in a vitrine have ever tried to work on marble…

    One small question though: why did you choose a censored photo of David?

    1. Hi Daniel !
      Yes, hopefully my blog is “back”. I’m so glad you read the post!
      I’ll happily name names and say the following: Imagine if Damien Hirst had actually caught the shark himself or not even, imagine if he had welded the tank himlsef! But no, his army of 40 can do that… that’s what I mean about a handful of artists.

      As for the censored picture – I just liked it. And I was reading how once upon a time a copy of the David has been carved with a leaf over his privates.. haha.

      Thank you for commenting!

      1. The pleasure is mine, you write very well and quite energetically. I guess you forgot the quotes when you wrote “a handful of artists”; this article will make you smile –or give you a good laughter: http://elpais.com/diario/2009/12/20/eps/1261294018_850215.html

        I don’t want to dig too much into the subject, so let’s hope that in the future the leaf won’t be use to cover the crack on his privates 😉

      2. I just replied to your comment in Spanish! haha. So I had to erase it.

        Anyway, I read Thompson’s book in 2007! It’s soo good. Unfortunately it’s not as relevant anymore because the art market changes so fast.

        I’m writing a post as we speak so you’ll have something new to read very soon. Thank you!


  2. Hola Andrea

    No me imagino mundo sin arte, el arte es parte de nuestra corteza, de áreas cerebrales y pare que este se desaparezca se tendría que involucionar en el desarrollo del cerebro.

    El David, como tu lo describes muy bien : He’s fit, barrier-less, bold,virile, ideally beautiful, and a standing ovation to craftsmanship and actual raw talent that SOOOOOO many artists lack today, ya no tiene precio.

    Me preocupa lo que le esta pasando y se pude caer, se que en el mundo hay ingenieros de materiales que evalúan resistencia de materiales con el fin evaluar tolerancia a sismos o a peso. eso se debería usar en el David y vale la pena gastarle plata en estas investigaciones.

    En la comparación que hace el compañero con el Tiburón, pienso que son dos cosas muy diferentes, una es escultura que requiere areas de la corteza con habilidades para que sus manos, pies, etc, formen algo estetico. El tuburon estaría en áreas cerebrales mas relacionadas con los aspectos tridimensionales, espaciales, etc, y en cruces neuronales con zonas artisticas, que influyen mas en el arte de las instalaciones.

    hoy estuve muy cerebral, me disculpas, pero es uno de los temas que me apaciona: “Interpretación Neuropsicologica del Arte”

    Un saludo y no nos dejes sin blog

    Erick valencia

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