Perhaps one of the most jaw-dropping, camera flashing, ohh and ahh moments that I had while studying abroad was while I was visiting Florence. Florence is an architectural wonder – monuments made of bronze, marble and clay trolling the streets and guarding the leather shops that adorn the streets.
Florence is known as the Cradle of Renaissance, characterized by Greek culture and values. Florence is actually pronounced and spelled Firenze and is home to 72 museums, not including the natural gardens, plazas and gallerias that are scattered around the city like stars in the sky.
Just getting off of the train was breathtaking. The first view the group embraced were small street shops selling knick-knacks and authentic leather products. The aroma of the leather in the streets was not only overwhelming, but encompassing, surrounding you in its grasp. Every other vendor sold a different product, ranging from purses, wallets, saddle bags, belts, ties and even leather jewelry. But the leather-lined streets wasn’t the one truly breathe-taking moment that I had in Florence.
I could not leave Florence without seeing Michelangelo’s The David. After waiting around for almost an hour in the blazing hot sun, myself and one other study abroad student, entered the Galleria dell’Accademia, in full anticipation and eagerness to place our eyes on the sculpture that highlights every art class or art history textbook ever heard of.
Fun fact, the tribune where The David now resides was actually built around the sculpture. The David originally was an outdoor sculpture, held in the Piazza della Signoria since 1504. However, the fragility of the sculpture enticed architect Emilio de Fabris, who was asked to design a Tribune within the actual museum. The statue itself weighs 12,478.12 pounds and is made out of solid marble and stands at a height of 16 feet and 11.15 inches.
The David truly is a grand piece of work and this was the moment where I stood breathless for more than just a minute or two. The ferocity of him, how he peers over the corridor and the hallway that leads to him, just could not be captured within the hundreds of photos that I took. He stood in a circular, sunlit opening, looking back daringly at us as we walked towards him.
Practice sculptures, messed up trials that Michelangelo made while learning the craft and designing The David, lined up like soldiers down the corridor, showcasing how his skill and craft developed as he learned more about the human anatomy and tried to mirror it in his work.
It was told by our tour guide that Michelangelo studied human anatomy specifically to sculpt The David, and his dedication to studying the human body shows. Veins perk up through the skin throughout his body, his perfectly etched abdomen coupling the stern line of his chin. Dimples, brow lines, hair lines, almost every little detail of a human’s body that you can possibly imagine was dictated on the sculpture.
Every side of The David was sculpted with the same perfection that his elegant eyes and subtle grin was, his back just as distinctly defined as any athletic male would want his back to be defined. So elegantly placed behind his right leg is what looks like a tree stump, an addition to the piece that was not only meant to keep it sturdy, but also represents the Jesse tree. Originating from the biblical verse Isaiah 11:1, the stump represents the royal family line of David and symbolizes how that, just as the tree and family had been cut down, new branches will rise up, just as a new king will arise from David’s descendants.
Overall, I spent almost 20 minutes gazing up at this man, the man who is said to depict David from the David and Goliath biblical tale that I heard time and time again as child. No picture, no tale, no history book could ever capture the history, the passion and the dedication that this sculpture captured just standing there. Never before have I appreciated a piece of artwork so much, never truly gazed upon a thousand-year-old masterpiece that thousands, millions of eyes have gazed upon. Just seeing The David made the museum trip worth it, and, as I later found out after escaping from David’s serenading gaze, there were hundreds of other ohh and ahh breathless moments to come.
(Kayla Handy is a Clarion University student contributor to VenangoExtra.com & ClarionExtra.com. Email Kayla at firstname.lastname@example.org.)