Sunday, 5 July 2009

Looking for ‘David’

One of the major things that had attracted us to Florence was its overwhelming connection to art and in particular the Italian Renaissance. In the centre of that artistic revolution was the master artist himself, Michelangelo Buonarroti. He had spent much of his early life in this great city and as his fame grew, he spent most of his life sharing his time between the Medici family in Florence and the papacy in Rome. Therefore, not surprisingly there remains much evidence of his time here, with many works in the Uffizi and in other parts of the city. However, by far the most notable is his statue of ‘David’, which was completed in the early 1500’s and has stamped its visual identity on Florence ever since. Like thousands of others, we were here to track him down and it was not long after arriving that his emblazoned image could be seen everywhere on all manner of tacky souvenirs. This iconic statue originally stood in the Piazza Della Signoria, until its true artistic and cultural significance was fully recognized in the late 1800’s when it was whisked away to a safe haven indoors. Today a replica stands in its place, but nonetheless Jules and I would still spend many an hour gazing admiringly at it from any number of nearby cafés and restaurants in the square. It is such a recognizable and iconic statue that has been so often reproduced to the point of cliché, but it is still very rewarding to see even a reproduction in its original location. However, like all the other tourists we were eventually drawn to join the long queues to view the original at the Academia Gallery. After finally getting through the doors, we made our way past several incomplete Michelangelo carvings showing us just how the master set about ‘releasing his figures from the stone’. However, for many the sight of the famed naked figure of ‘David’ was just too irresistible, as they stormed by other works in order to push their way through for a closer look at the large iconic statue. I must say that it was all a bit manic, as tourists jostled for position in an attempt to take photographs, much to the protesting voices of the many security guards. They tried in vein, but just as they managed to get the ‘no photos’ message across, another wave of tourists would enter the room and the excited protests would begin again. In the end we resisted the temptation to pull out our camera for a sneaky shot and while ‘David’ was wonderful to see, there was much to be said for simply enjoying the reproduction in the open air. After all, most people jostling for a view in the enclosed space couldn’t really tell the difference anyway. A much more relaxed viewing of Renaissance art was at the Basilica Santa Croce where the great artist was finally entombed alongside the astronomer Galileo and several other illustrious Italians. This is a beautiful old church dating back to 1200AD with a distinctive white marble façade that is presented in a classic grid-like format. Under great vaulted ceilings there were some incredible works on display, including a sculpture that I particularly liked by Pio Fedi, which is believed to have been the inspiration for the ‘Statue of Liberty’. Beyond the basilica itself there were other interesting galleries to view also, including a contemporary exhibition by the painter Santo Tomaino, surprisingly based upon the world of boxing. While slightly out of context, it reflected the diversity and ongoing love of art in Florence. Yet there is little doubt that Michelangelo’s ‘David’ will always remain the jewel in the crown; the one piece that tourists seek out and the one that will always be inexplicably linked with Florence.

No comments:

Post a Comment