On our arrival in Florence, Robin, our guide, took us first to the Accademia Gallery where one of the most celebrated works of art is housed, Michelangelo’s David. What a literally towering achievement it is, a 17-foot sculpture carved out of a single block of marble. Michelangelo was only 26 years old when he started, and completed the statue in two years. Robin pointed out that his right hand and head are larger in scale than the rest of his body, presumably deliberate exaggerations by Michelangelo so that they didn’t appear too small when viewing David looking up, perched high above in a niche in the Duomo where the statue was originally supposed to be placed. The Renaissance mastery of the human form is in full display, not only of anatomy but the subtleties of posture and muscle tension. No picture-taking was allowed in the gallery (the picture above is in the public domain). A replica of David sits in the Piazza della Signoria.
Out in a public space in Florence are sculptures that are considered to be masterpieces. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the openness and public trust. It was surprising to find a body double of one of the great works of Renaissance art.
Michelangelo’s David originally appeared in the square of the Palazzo Vecchio, but because of its artistic importance, the statue was moved to its current location at the Accademia. In its place is a replica of the famous statue.
Nearby is the Loggia dei Lanzi, a building consisting of beautifully constructed, wide open arches, under which are sheltered other sculptural masterpieces. One of them is Benvenuto Cellini’s Perseus with the Head of Medusa, a work in bronze that consumed ten years of the artist’s life.
One of the most impressive pieces artistically is Giambologna’s Rape of the Sabine Women, a recreation of the abduction legend of Sabine women by the mostly male founders of Rome. It was carved out of a single block of marble in a spiral motif that was meant to be appreciated from all sides.