What trip to Florence would be complete without a visit to the Accademia to see David?
My first visit to Florence, I actually did NOT get to see David as I only had about 2 1/2 days, and back then unless you booked a tour group, the only way in was to get in the 2-3 hour line. Now, Florence the city offers a three-day, all-you-can-museum pass called the Firenze Card. It’s a bit pricey, but in my estimation well worth the 72 Euros because you can just wave it at the door and walk right in to the Uffizi, the Accademia, the Bargello and any of the other major public museums in the city. If you can make it in to say four museums in the three days, it’s more than paid for itself.
Back to the David – I had seen the copy that was made in the 19th century and placed in front of the Signoria on my previous visit, and I thought it was a good enough copy that I didn’t need to see the original. Having been now to see the original, I can say I was totally wrong. The public copy is an excellent copy, but it’s still just a high-end Xerox of Michelangelo’s. I tried with this composition to photograph it in a slightly less cliche fashion by including the architecture of the room.
There’s so much going on with this statue and its history. It was originally intended to stand on a pedestal on the outside of the Duomo along with a dozen or so other similar sculptures. The David was the only one of the group ever made, and it never was placed in its originally intended location. David came to symbolize the Florentine Republic, and as such, by the time he was finished, he was placed outside the Palazzo Vecchio in the Piazza della Signoria to remind Florentines of their independent status. The original statue stood outside in the rain and the wind and the sun and the snow for four centuries before being moved to the Accademia. In the 20th century, he was “restored” once, very poorly, and a second time, recently, with a far more gentle method. As a result of the cleanings, the exposure, and the hammer attack he was subjected to, there remains no actual surface which would have been touched by the hand of Michelangelo. In spite of this, the statue remains transcendent.
There’s a terrific book about the David, From Marble to Flesh: a Biography of Michelangelo’s David, by A. Victor Coonin. My only association with the book aside from having read it is that I was a Kickstarter backer of the original publication. If you look in the credits you’ll find my name. Regardless, the book tells the complete life story of David from his beginnings as a sculpture to be carved by someone else, Michelangelo taking over the task, his completion, public placement, life, moving from the Piazza to the Accademia (which took almost as long to accomplish in the late 1800s as it did to move from Michelangelo’s studio to the Piazza some four hundred years earlier), through to the cultural importance of David as a symbol in 21st century life.