From January to March of this year, Michelangelo’s David/Apollo, normally resident in the Bargello museum in Florence, was on loan to the National Gallery of Art in DC. Being a huge Michelangelo fan, I had to go see it. The last time it was exhibited here in the US was during Harry Truman’s presidency. In fact, there are only three known or attributed works by Michelangelo in the United States (a drawing and two sculptures, one of which is in a private collection), so it’s a rare day when you can get to see something from his hand.
One of Michelangelo’s “unfinished” sculptures, much speculation exists around the entire series of the “unfinished” carvings – were they unfinished because Michelangelo was always biting off more than he could chew and didn’t have time, or did he deliberately leave them “unfinished” because he was making an artistic statement about the relationship between the image, the stone and the carving? Either way, they make for a tantalizing insight into the mind and the technique of one of the world’s greatest sculptors.
I’m almost as fascinated by the people who come to look at art as I am the art itself. Sometimes (frequently, actually) I’m very annoyed with museum patrons because they’ll blithely traipse right between you and a work or the wall label for it that you’re trying to look at, rented headset on, completely oblivious to the fact that you now cannot read or see the exhibit. But when they’re not blocking your view, the way they look at art is endlessly interesting. Some will point, some will stand back and appraise, some will “print-sniff” and get close enough the guards have to warn them off. Some will ingest silently, others will pontificate to their audience of friends (and anyone else within earshot), often as not with art history textbook opinions and/or not entirely accurate “facts” about the artwork and/or the artist.