Thursday, June 18, 2009

Galleria dell'Accademia

The Galleria dell'Accademia was built specifically to house Michelangelo's famous David, considered to be the consummate Renaissance statute. His Prisoners--named after he died, these sculptures are possibly unfinished--are also here, as is the famous Rape of the Sabines. The Prisoners represent men twisted in strange positions, trying to 'escape' from the bed rock from which they were carved. It is unclear whether Michelangelo thought these were finished sculptures, or whether he got bored with them and moved on to other things. To quickly quash any expectations, photographs were not allowed at any point in this gallery, so I am sorry for the glaring lack of pictures. The Rape depicts a young, muscular man standing over a defeated old man, and forcefully clutching on to a nude woman. Its title was also given by someone other than the sculptor. Its design allows you a good view from any angle, which was a popular method of sculpting in that day.

Statue of David
Originally, this statue--representing the lowly shepherd boy who slayed the Philistine giant, Goliath--was kept outside of what was City Hall under the Medici rule in Florence. However, the weather, a crazed artist who assaulted the statue's feet with a hammer during a protest, and a flying bench from the window of City Hall during another protest that broke off his arm, prompted the Fiorentines to build the Accademia with a dome specially designed to do the sculpture justice. And that it does. Standing 17 feet tall, David has plenty of head space, and the skylight dome above him sheds a sort of halo of light around him. It is an amazing sculpture, perfectly carved human form.

What makes it particularly impressive, in my eyes, is Michelangelo's method. Traditionally, sculptors would build scaled models of their projects and then, with that as a reference, would carve the actual sculpture out of a slab of rock/marble. Michelangelo, however, did everything freeform. He believed that the rock contained the desired sculpture within it, and it was god that willed him to reveal it. He needed no scaled model, he only used god's guidance in finding the form with his chisel. That may not be too difficult for a small project, but to create a 17-foot tall figure, and to have it become possibly the most famous sculpture in the world, without any sort of visual aide to guide his work, is amazing.

Other Things of Note
There was a photography exhibit in this museum by an American photographer, Robert Mapplethorpe. His work was interesting, but it was surprising to see an American's work in such a prestigious Fiorentine gallery. His work centered on the human body, though, so it fit well with David.

The gallery also hosts a musical exhibit, full of extremely old stringed instruments, horns, flutes, and pianos. My musical knowledge is very limited, so I won't say any more. But it was neat.

One thing that really piqued our curiosity was a painting of Jesus in one of the rooms. I'm no religious buff, nor am I well versed in the world of art, but there are a few things in religious art history that seem commonplace. One of the big ones is the way Jesus is generally depicted on the cross - head slumped to one side with the crown of thorns, Mary Magdalene often at his feet, angels often flying around him--sometimes catching his blood in goblets, one nail in each hand, the spear wound in his ribs, and one nail through both of his overlapping feet. This painting, however, which was unattributed and untitled, had Jesus' feet nailed separately, with one nail through each one. We searched the entire gallery, which probably has over 50 paintings of the crucifixion, and did not find any other paintings with this feature. Anyone know why? We couldn't figure it out.

Regardless, this exhibit was pretty impressive. There was a wing full of sculptures--busts, reliefs, frescoes, and statues--that were the final exams of art students at the Accademia. Some of them were spectacular. The attention to detail, particularly in the folds of flowing robes and sheets (I thought), was breathtaking.

I'm not sure what else to say about the gallery. It was impressive, and we were both very glad to have seen David. This statue is a huge part of history, and I imagine the majority of the world never has the chance to see it.

On the way home, we stopped for lunch. We both got sandwiches on what I would compare to a round disk of ciabatta bread, with prosciutto and mozzarella. We shared a fruit cup (I know...) with the biggest grapes we had ever seen, canteloupe, kiwi, orange, and pineapple.

Now, I am sitting in the apartment waiting for the landlord to get here with our allegedly fixed router. Johnny has gone running.

Class at 4:45. No plans for tonight as of yet.

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