Today we explored the city of Florence, after checking into a hotel here last night. Our group met Andrea (which is a common man’s name in Italy) for a day of sightseeing and visiting museums.
We saw some amazing sights as we journeyed into the heart of Florence. The Cathedral of Florence was magnificent. The duomo (Italian for “house”) is huge, and took more than 140 years to complete. The ancient church, completed in 1536, still holds daily services.
This afternoon we walked through the Uffizi Gallery, which houses one of the most impressive collections of Italian Renaissance art in the world. Our knowledgeable guide, Andrea, who has a deep passion for art, led us room by room, calling our attention to works of art by Michelangelo, Di Vinci, Botticelli, Raphael and Rembrandt. Andrea shared about the symbolism and history within those paintings, bringing deeper meaning to the works.
Andrea took us to another museum early in the day, the Galleria dell’Academia, where Michelangelo’s marble statue David is on display. I have been familiar with this 17 foot statue, representing the biblical figure, David, since childhood. To walk into that domed room, specially built around the statue, was surreal. This experience became the pinnacle of a day full of wonderful adventures.
However, before we got to meet David, Andrea introduced us to four unfinished sculptures, works that will forever remain incomplete after Michelangelo’s death at age 89. These pieces are called “slaves” because the figures are seen as trying to free themselves from the marble.
Michelangelo was unique among sculptors in that he purchased solid blocks of marble and using hand tools, created the sculptures by working from the front of the block to the back. He didn’t use models. He worked from his imagination and from sketches he drew. Michelangelo believed God gave him the gift of releasing the figure from the marble.
He was incredibly gifted, that is evident. After studying his unfinished sculptures, we were taken into the next room to meet his David.
What an amazing sight. What an extraordinary work of art. Andrea is extremely passionate about this statue. As we quietly gazed upward, he told us that Michelangelo was only 26 years old when he began this sculpture, which was commissioned as a statue to be placed on the Florence Cathedral’s eastern roofline.
When the statue was unveiled in 1504, the people saw how gifted and promising the young sculptor was. The powerful work of art was placed at the entrance to the Cathedral instead, where it remained until 1873. At that time, it was moved to its current location, to protect it from corrosion by the weather and from vandalism. A replica took its place.
We slowly walked around the statue. I have rarely seen a photo of David’s face. I was struck by the intense look in his eyes, the slight furrow on his brow. I could see the muscles of his chest and abdomen, see the ribs beneath. This wasn’t just a shepherd boy Michelangelo sculpted. This was a young warrior, naked to show his vulnerability and his complete trust in God…muscled to show his strength…confident that his simple weapon could take down a giant enemy, because he was not fighting alone.
I stood with tears in my eyes, listening as Andrea spoke with strong emotion about this young man who became one of the most well known artists, ever, and his sculpture, David. It was a very moving experience, and one I will not forget.
When asked how he created David, Michelangelo is reported to have said that he simply chipped away the stone that was not David. He revealed David, in all of his glory. I am so grateful that he did. And I can carry that lesson away from Florence, as we head to Venice tomorrow. I can let all that is not Cindy be chipped away, to reveal the masterpiece that already exists there.
Like David, I am being freed.