Since we discussed Michelangelo's David in our Museum Monday yesterday, it would just be wrong not to recognize his birthday today. If you are interested in a little Michelangelo trivia, you might be interested in this POST I shared last year on his birthday.
As if you need another reason to visit Italy, today, let's talk about the Galleria dell' Accademia that is home to Michelangelo's David. We have all seen Michelangelo's sculpture of David in photos, replicas, or the original, right? This 17-foot marble statue of the Biblical hero has become one of the most recognizable sculptures from the Renaissance period. The sculpture was originally commissioned as one of twelve Old Testament sculptures to be installed on the roof of the Florence Cathedral. However, did you know that the marble had been quarried, brought to Florence (no small undertaking in the 1400's), and was worked on by two other artists before Michelangelo was commissioned to transform it into the David we know today?
Marble is best sculpted after it is freshly cut and becomes increasingly brittle with exposure to the elements. In fact, this marble was considered "dead" because it had been sitting in the sun for over 30-years before Michelangelo transformed it into David. Somehow, the young Michelangelo took a piece of low quality marble that had been badly cut and created a beautiful statue.
Upon the sculpture's completion around 1504, the authorities acknowledged that installing the sculpture on the roof was unlikely. The sculpture was installed outdoors in the Palazzo della Signoria instead of the originally planned location. It remained in this outdoor location until it was moved into the Galleria dell'Accademia in 1873 in an effort to protect the masterpiece from further damage. Between the time the marble had been quarried, sculpted, and installed, it had been exposed to the elements for close to 400 years if I did the math correctly.
Why am I telling you this little tidbit of history? I am sharing this so you will have some background to understand why David has some weak ankles. It seems the ankles have developed micro-fractures as a result of exposure to the elements, the unusual position, and proportions (remember it was supposed to be viewed from a distance below which factored into the proportions and angle design), as well as other factors over the years. Scientists have mapped the micro-fractures and have determined that the masterpiece is in danger of collapse. Recent studies report, if David were tilted as little as 15-degrees, the ankles would no longer support the statue's weight. Yikes!
The subject of one of my college research papers was the German-born painter, printmaker, and sculptor, Käthe Kollwitz. Do not worry. I will not post the paper in its entirety. I will just give you the abbreviated version; not because it is undeserving, but because I want you to learn more about her and her work on your own. It is pretty powerful to see the work and relate it to what was happening in the world, and in her own life, at the time she created the work.
The brief background is that Kollwitz's reoccurring themes of the human condition categorized her art as part of the German Expressionism movement. Her work was a vehicle that confronted current world affairs. But, her compassionate depiction of these themes is what most defines her art. She articulated these themes in a powerful, yet poignant, style. However, her works did not escape controversy during World War II. Much of Kollwitz's works, which were considered social statements, were banned due to its anti-war content. Although her work was banned, it has withstood the test of time, politics, censorship, all the things that set us apart, and focuses on what we have in common. Her work has spanned geographic borders, generations, and continues to be popular today.
I do hope you will look at some of her work and read a little about her.