D is for . . .

7

April 4, 2014 by Ray Yanek

D

David 

I think it’s safe to say that Michelangelo’s David is one of the most recognizable pieces of Western art.  We see David in pop culture, in memes, everywhere, and for good reason. David is a masterwork.

When things become familiar though, we take them for granted.  We see those 314px-David_von_Michelangeloimages so often that we look at them superficially, if not right past them.  We believe that because those images are so familiar,  they have nothing new to offer.

I do that a lot, and I’m realizing how much of a shame that is, because in just a couple quick swathes of research, I’ve found there’s a lot more to David then I realized.

— I feel stupid admitting this… but I never realized until reading an article in Tuscany Arts that Michelangelo’s David is left-handed.  The versions of David that came before Michelangelo’s (from Donatello and Verrocchio) were both right handed.

— The shift from left to right-handed wasn’t the only significant difference between Michelangelo’s sculpture and its predecessors.  Both Donatello’s and Verrocchio’s work show David after the beheading of Goliath and include the head of Goliath. Michelangelo’s work shows David before the battle. Centuries later, Bernini will create another David showing him smack dab in the middle of battle.

— In my opinion, this next item is one of the most amazing aspects of the statue.  It’sDavid head one of those things that leaves you awestruck at the talent. Look back at the full picture of David above.  From that angle, with the way he stands and with the tilt of his head, David looks calm and assured.  Look at David’s face from only a slightly different angle though, and you see very different emotions.  You see a touch of fear and trepidation as he seems to understand the monumental task he is about to undertake.

— Two other artists actually started using the marble that David was ultimately carved from, but discarded the material because of it’s poor quality.  Think about that…one of the greatest works of Western art was carved from a piece of marble most artists would have tossed aside.

— Most people are aware that David is out of proportion, especially the hands and the fact that the torso is longer than the lower body.  Michelangelo did this on purpose.  When he was commissioned to create the statue, the sculpture was supposed to be perched high atop the Duomo.  Michelangelo expected people to view the statue from a distance and from below, so he adjusted the proportions accordingly so that David’s torso would look natural when viewed in that manner and also so that the viewers attention would be drawn to the head and hands. Remember too that even though the statue is now on ground level, it’s still 16 ft tall, not including the pedestal.

— Michelangelo wanted the viewer’s attention to gravitate towards the hand  because again according to Tuscany Arts, in the Middle Ages David was known to be “‘manu fortis”-strong of hand.”

— At 16 tons, however, the statue was far too heavy to be lifted to its proposed home.  Plus, when people first saw it, they believed the piece was so beautiful it would be a travesty if people could not view it up-close.  A council of artists and officials was formed to find the statue a new home.  Supposedly, in a show of artistic jealousy, Leonardo da Vinci proposed, subtly, a location that would effectively hide the statue in a corner.

— David was finished in 1504.  It was not until the year 2005 however, that someone

recognized that David has deviating eyes.  Shaikh and Leonard-Amodeo state that “the right eye is in the primary position while the left eye appears to be looking out to the left.” This was no accident but was instead another artistic choice.   Shaikh and Leonard-Amodeo remind us that if you circle the statue of David, only one eye is visible at a time.  Shaikh and Leonard-Amedeo state:

“Approaching the statue from its left, the viewer notes that the left eye is staring towards (and above) him, as if focusing cunningly on the giant Goliath. However, the right eye is not fully visible from this angle because it is hidden behind the sling. If one stands to the statue’s right and circles around the right, the right eye remains visible but the left eye disappears. Michelangelo must have calculated every angle and considered the position of the viewer when carving out the eyes” (Shaikh and Leonard-Amedeo).

Why this had gone undiscovered for all those hundreds of years?  Remember that the statute was intended to be viewed from below as the statue is about 16 feet high, not including the pedestal.  The eye deviation can only be seen when looking directly at on the same level of David’s face.

Kind of amazing that no one ever thought to do that to a statue that we thought we were all so familiar with huh?

Lesson learned Michelangelo… lesson learned.

 

         

Advertisements

7 thoughts on “D is for . . .

  1. Author says:

    Fascinating! David is my favorite work of art, i get misty-eyed whenever I get a chance to see it in person….but I never knew he was left-handed, carved from rejected marble, out of proportion, etc. Great post!

    • Ray Yanek says:

      I never knew most of this stuff either! I did get to see David in Florence once when I went to Europe right after college. You know, I saw so much art on that trip, but David is the one sculpture I remember vividly. It was very intimidating for some reason, intimidating in a good way though…

  2. P Liegl says:

    “D” is for “damn” good. Learnin’ something new everyday.
    Reminded me of the TED Talk on NPR about things we believe that are myths. Their was a piece about David and Goliath, which gave David the advantage and why.

  3. ardurdan says:

    A very interesting and informative read Mr. Yanek. Thank you for sharing! I never knew about all that stuff about Michelangelo’s David until now. It just goes to show that there is always something new to learn about the things around us that we are familiar with.

  4. This was fascinating!

    I’m reading backwards again, so I’m guessing I can look forward to finding C, B, & A in my blog reader.

    Sweet.

  5. Kathe W. says:

    oh yes- good ol’ David. Such a magnificent sculpture.

  6. […] iconic sculpture The Thinker is, along with Michelangelo’s David (which I wrote about over here) one of the western world’s most famous sculptures.  Everyone recognizes it; […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,393 other followers

%d bloggers like this: