IN LIFE AS IN THE DANCE : GRACE GLIDES

ON BLISTERED FEET.
---Alice Abrams

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Manic Monday - Marble

I am a "hobby" painter and I'll never make it into the Louvre (a craft show, maybe!). I've used many mediums: watercolor, pastel, acrylic and oil. I understand how these mediums work and create art, whether on canvas or wood. I can understand using clay to shape a bowl or a pot. But using marble to create a masterpiece such as The Pieta or Michelangelo's David, is beyond my ken. I do not understand how you can shape stone with tools into such lifelike dimensions. So, when Morgen said "Marble" was the word for today, that was the second thing that leaped into my brain. The first? The most obvious!!! The marbles I have been looking for, since they have obviously escaped from my noggin!!!

- Michelangelo's David -
In Autumn 1504 the Florentines witnessed an exceptional event: after four days travelling round the city, transported with the care and attention normally reserved for great events, inside a wooden cage running on greased beams, Michelangelo's David finally reached its destination, the Piazza della Signoria - and was immediately celebrated as one of the greatest masterpieces of the Renaissance.
The statue was first intended to be displayed in the Cathedral, but was then felt to be of so great merit as to deserve a more important position.
Chronicles tell us of the immense surprise and marvel that the Florentines showed as it was uncovered. 'It took the voice away from statues both ancient and modern', wrote Vasari, author of a famous biography of the artist. Such a superb work had never been seen before either in Florence or elsewhere, with its manifest expression of awareness of power.
The Florentines, who called it Michelangelo's "giant", considered it the most explicit example of the spirit of the New Republic that had chased the Medici from Florence in 1494. When he created his David, Michelangelo was not even thirty, but had already produced works of great value such as the Tondo Doni which can be found in the Uffizi today. His David was so successful that he was called back to Rome by the Pope himself, Giulio II, for whom he would then paint the famous Sistine Chapel.
The Florence where Michelangelo was born was already the city of art and trade that we know of as the driving centre of the period of cultural rebirth that we call the Renaissance. It had known artists like Giotto, Masaccio and Donatello, but it was in Michelangelo, and naturally Leonardo da Vinci, that Florence saw the incomparable genius that could best represent its cultural supremacy.
Michelangelo took three years to finish his David. This great work would confirm him as even more than just Florence's greatest sculptor. What the Florentines saw that day in 1504, was a masterpiece with no equal. A giant almost four and a half meters high and the only large nude sculpted after ancient times, as no-one had previously dared to challenge the Greek and Roman masterpieces. But though it does remind us of ancient models, the David sculpture is daringly anti-classical. Its position, though expressing perfect balance, alludes at movement, with its left heel raised off the ground. The attitude is strong, arrogant and, above all, filled with inner life like no other similar classical statue. Behind the apparent equilibrium, his David represses strong energy and tension.
Michelangelo then does something of genius: he doesn't show us David after Goliath's defeat, triumphant over the giant's head, as in typical iconography, but at an unspecified moment, perhaps just after his victory. Michelangelo does not want to portray the action, but rather the possibility to carry it out and he prefers to show David's strength in power more than in the evidence of historical narration. Strength is expressed in the exceptional vitality of his challenging look, below those frowning eyebrows and in the muscular tension shown by his meticulous design of anatomical parts.
Michelangelo also uses an ingenious technique, giving authority to his characters through lack of proportion for some parts: the hands, knotted and extremely beautiful, the face which with the neck is bigger than half the chest. It is in the hands and face that the virtues of universal man are to be found, in other words, physical strength and the intellectual reasoning of man. The entire work represents, in this sense, a perfect synthesis of the Florentine Renaissance.
On display in the city's most important square and in front of the seat of its government, the David by Michelangelo often risked serious damage. In 1872 they decided to move it into the Academy Gallery, into a specially designed room where it can still be seen today, while it was only in 1910 that a copy was to be placed on its original site in Piazza della Signoria.
Artist, architect, scholar, but most of all Michelangelo considered himself a sculptor: and it is in the sculptor's action of hitting marble with a chisel in an effort to draw his primary idea, the universal concept out of matter, that his incomparable genius can be found and the reason why, as Vasari said, 'his fame will live on gloriously, despite death'.

24 comments:

Desert Songbird said...

Okay, what am I missing? Or is it that you're missing your marbles?

Amazing Gracie said...

Ha, ha...I had to edit it! So, what did you get - a blank screen?
Sorry!!!

Gattina said...

Hey, that's funny ! I am a leisure painter too, have you ever seen my paintings on my painting blog ?
I have seen sculpturing when I was at Art school. It's quite amazing, they first do a little model and then hammer it in big. I think there is a lot of calculation involved. (Nothing for me) but I have done quite some pottery with clay I loved it.

Kai said...

Truly amazing when you think that was all done with a chisel!

Kai said...

Whoops - my MM is on the other one:

Just Me

Jersey - The Furry Diva said...

My hoomans have been to Florence, visiting David - especially my hooman mommy loved him.

Happy MM, Miss Gracie!

Shaz said...

I'm not artisitc at all Gracie so i envy your tallent as well as Michelangelo's x x x

Sanni said...

Excellent take on the theme, Gracie!
David is a kind of "long distance" neighbor to me. We´ve been visiting him quite often... on weekend trips =)

Nancy Lindquist-Liedel said...

What a wonderful post, full of information I never knew!

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

well great minds think alike but i learned more at yours than mine! ha ha

good one gracie and i love it from the back especially. can't wait for mo man to see! ha ha

smiles, bee

Hootin'Anni said...

WOW!! I just left Gattina's blog with the marble of Venus de Milo now, DAVID!! So cool.

I'm really getting culture today. And it's not the green fuzzy stuff growing in my 'fridge!!

the108 said...

I could only dream to be able to create like that!

Jamie said...

A wonderful analysis of the the David. Thank you.

Lois Grebowski said...

Classic is the way to go... although someone's post about marble cake got my attention...

Yipee for Michaelangelo!

tegdirb92 said...

I would LOVE to see that one in person!! Great post.

Mags said...

I love this kind of marble...

Happy MM my friend.

Loving Annie said...

Oooooh, he's even nicer from the back !

Happy Monday to you, Gracie !

Comedy + said...

I'm with Loving Annie. Nice arse... Have a great MM Gracie. :)

Morgen said...

In this day & age of "no attention span" I think it is incredible that an artist spent 3 years to make one statue. Of course, he didn't have a blog!
Can you imagine Michaelangelo's blog? Vetruvian Man Tuesday?
13 things that I want to make fly on TT?
Ha!
I know, I digress... but makes you think...
Great post, Gracie - and thanks for the David butt shot, too!
Love ya, my friend,
manic mo

Villager said...

Thank you for the research and the sharing. You've provided insights that I didn't know before reading your post.

My Manic Monday post on the Electronic Village takes the marble theme into African American history.

Happy MM! Villager

Katie M. said...

hi! how are you? hope your doing good.

Crazy Working Mom said...

Beautiful, and very educational this week, Gracie! :)

Happy MM!

Travis said...

The thing I always remember about Michelangelo is that he said that he merely uncovers the figure within the marble.

Imma (Alice) said...

This is a wonderful, informative post, Gracie. Well done.