I’ve lived in Florence for about three and a half months, and I only saw the David yesterday. The David is Michelangelo’s arguably greatest creation, a seventeen-foot giant, muscular, contrapposto freestanding figure completed in 1504. I saw a lot of his work this break, including the Sistine Chapel, located in Vatican City. But Florence is the capital of the Renaissance, a city littered with so much art, I almost have become numb to beauty, desensitized to the form and color always eager to impress.
We chose the right day. That can definitely make or break any museum experience. I’ve gone to museums so packed, like the Vatican Museum, where seeing the art is a time-restricted, space-restricted occasion. The ways in which art changes – The way you have time to make a personal connection as opposed to a restrictive approach to the viewing of art, greatly impacts the level of the connection made. I found myself struggling to make connections with the pieces at the Vatican Museum for that reason. I had this fear for the Accademia, we had decided to go on the first Sunday of the month, which is free. But it being raining and the off-season, there was a small group of people waiting to go in. Once we did, David didn’t reveal himself immediately. I was convinced I’d see him right from the get-go, so I ran through the galleries until I saw him. And you know, you’ll know when you see the David.
I have seen so many statues, even the two Davids (fake), and this one did truly impress me. Certainly not enough for me to wait in a huge line for hours, but the few people scattering through left the gallery just personal enough. People filtered through, some trying to draw David.
This semester I studied Walter Benjamin, who in The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility, describes the aura surrounding a work of art. This aura is the reason art matters at all anymore. Pictures can be taken and viewed online, but there is an originality to the space that matters. That importance of the space certainly differs from Michelangelo to Yoko Ono. Yoko Ono can see the space, and has most likely been the one to place the art, if not to approve its location and interaction with other works around it. But Michelangelo cannot place his art any longer. For all he knows, the Sistine Chapel frescoes have rotted away. I find Florence this confused area, a city where selfie sticks are sold outside of structures created in the 15th century. This is reflected in the gallery, where even someone like myself, with a decent art history background, goes straight to the David and takes a photo.
The David, Il Davide as the Italians say, remains a symbol as Florence. He was placed in Piazza Signoria originally, but now the Accademia houses the David. Piazza Signoria which is steps away from my apartment, but the Uffizi around the corner does not house David. I am honestly still surprised I was even a bit impressed by the David. I have seen a lot of art in my life, I took AP Art History, and I make a point to see contemporary art and watch classic cinema and read books about random art. I see so much, and have seen so much traveling over the last week, that I really did not think the David would affect me. But it was his presence, his towering size, centrality. The way his body turned and is so white and strong after all these years. The David is no longer the figure sold on lighters to me, no longer the face of Florence. He remains magnificent, a figure transcending through time while all who surround him will not.