David, in the flesh
Forget all the puzzles, miniatures and fridge magnet versions you've seen of this Renaissance sculpture, nothing can prepare you to see Michelangelo's David in the flesh. It's not actually skin and bones of course, but rather a 17-foot high piece of white marble carved by the artist between 1501 and 1504.
But you'd swear David is breathing. Still and calm, David gazes to the left victoriously. Though at rest, it is clear David has exerted himself, as evidenced by his rippling muscles and seemingly throbbing veins in his hands and feet. The attention to anatomic detail is mind-boggling, including steely pecs and striated obliques, and the soft curls of his hair. All this carved delicately from a chunk of discarded Carrara marble. (Maybe only a gay man could have wrought such a magnificent specimen of man!)
Originally placed in front of Florence's Palazzo Vecchio, the sculpture was moved in 1873 to the Accademia Gallery. Here, David dominates the exhibition hall with his perfect male beauty and determined gaze. It's best to reserve a ticket beforehand, but if you can't or don't remember, show up just before opening (8:15 am). You may just grab a little precious alone time with the greatest hunk (of rock) of all time.
We recently visited Florence at the invitation of Philadelphia's tourism office. In honor of the 400th anniversary of Galileo's epochal use of the telescope, 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy. Phildalphia's Franklin Institute has the great honor of hosting the permanent works of Galileo and related scientists of Florence's Institute of Science, which is closing in order to remodel.
Over 100 artifacts are making their way to the Franklin including this world-changing object: A telescope that magnified objects up to 20 times. Galileo was inspired to point it heavenward, discovering moons orbiting Jupiter and initiating a series of events whereby our perception that the world revolved around us changed.
The Catholic Church was none too pleased. Drama ensued. Check back here next week for information about this great scientist, his tragic but triumphant discovery, this fabulously artistic city, and once-in-a-lifetime exhibition. If you can't make it to Florence to celebrate the year of astronomy why not enjoy the fact that Florence is coming to see you. The show starts around April 4, 2009. Start planning your trip to the City of Brotherly Love (and Sisterly Affection).