A Block of Marble

Hello blog,

Florence was an incredible experience. As a performing artist with a deep appreciation for all arts, getting to see some of the most famous architecture, paintings, and sculptures in human history was indescribably exciting. To walk where Renaissance artists walked and to marvel at the advanced, ornate architectural feats of enormous buildings was riveting.

The Renaissance amazes me because history shows that artists and sculptors literally spent years on their work. I have realized that I have underestimated the mathematics, infrastructure, and genius of the time period.

Elaborate works of art were often created in an effort to showcase the power of rulers. However, I would like to think in some ways that many of the religious art pieces were more purposeful as an act of worship, honoring to God. To me, art is a taste of heaven and can be glorifying to the Lord, and to me, it always has meaning. Art produces empathy and promotes thought, and I know for one thing that the beautiful pieces I saw nearly brought me to tears.

There are a lot of things flying through my mind about Florence considering the way that I was freaking out about how amazing it was the entire time, but one thing in particular I wanted to focus on in this blog was Michelangelo’s Statue of David. It is incomprehensible to think that this piece was created out of an abandoned, neglected block of marble, and now has the ability to deeply move people as they simply stare at it.

My Florence group visited Academia in the late afternoon on the first day. Whenever we first got there, I really had to use the restroom (on-brand for me) and I was informed by the staff that the restroom was to the left of the Statue of David, meaning I would have to walk directly toward it and then past it to take care of business. I was not ready to see David yet because there were other parts of Academia that I wanted to see first. I literally ran to the bathroom, pushed through huge crowds, and desperately averted my eyes because I didn’t want to ruin the surprise, and I am so glad I did.

After moseying through the Academia and seeing the other beautiful pieces, I made my way into the room where David stands at the other end, illuminated in natural light, encompassed by a simple yet stunning dome, towering over every other work of art around it. I was dumbfounded.

All through CR, I have had these transcendental moments in which I step outside of myself to try and fully appreciate the places I am in and the reality of this incredible experience. These are moments of bliss and gratefulness, and moments of appreciating the wonder of life. Seeing the David was one of these moments.

After blissfully staring at this masterpiece for 10 minutes, I decided to walk toward the statue to get a closer look. I circled the sculpture, and quickly realized that it is incredibly different at every single angle. The body language of David, the hope in his eyes amidst the expected childlike fear, the confident step forward, the detail to muscles and veins and stance and hands and all of it, is truly amazing. It was like I was staring at a giant, real person, so much different than the other busts and statues I have seen. Many are life-like but sometimes distant. The David was alive and well.

I think my favorite part about the David is Michelangelo’s choice to place more of an emphasis on his body language rather than the stone and slingshot in his hands. From certain perspectives, these objects are nearly invisible. Michelangelo made this artistic choice to emphasize that it was David’s innocence, intellectualism, and faith in God that allowed for his victory over Goliath, not his weapons and physical strength. This is ironic in many ways, considering David’s carefully chiseled muscles and powerful stature. However, Michelangelo’s work encompasses David’s cleverness and intense concentration the most. The statue is graceful and harmonious; it is holy in a sense.

Most scholars believe that the statue is David before his victory over Goliath while others argue that it occurs after.

I discussed these ideas with Peter, and an insightful conversation led us to conclude that it could really go either way. If it is David before, I can see his focus, faith, and hopeful, confident gaze as if he is ready to take on his enemy. With his foot forward and his weight resting on one side of his body, we can see that he is calm, collected, wise and ready for battle. In another light, David’s gaze and stance could also be interpreted as triumphant and victorious. OR perhaps his gaze is triumphant and victorious because David knows that because God is on his side, he will win, but has not done so yet. Either way, the David sends a powerful message that righteousness, intelligence, and goodness will ultimately prevail over the enemy, no matter how strong it may be.

Another fact I thought was fun: Michelangelo’s David was actually a symbol of liberty and freedom for the Florentine Republic. Originally located in Palazzo della Signoria, the David implied that Florence was ready to defend itself at any time.

As I mentioned earlier, the craziest part of all of it to me is the fact that the Statue of David was created out of an abandoned block of marble that was supposed to be scrapped (bet they didn’t see this one coming – beware of tricksters!!). Michelangelo spent over two years turning a massive rock into a masterpiece; it is something out of nothing. I can barely fathom the time and attention to detail required to produce the most famous statue of all time. Furthermore, I cannot fathom producing something like that starting from complete scratch.

Throughout CR, I have had the conversation of why bad things happen to good people with numerous individuals. None of us have come to a concrete conclusion that answers this ever-looming question from humanity (and we likely never will) but I have always liked to believe that while God does not cause evil and brokenness, He can take our brokenness and morph it in goodness; He can morph it in to something beautiful. This doesn’t necessarily answer the aforementioned question we will all have at one point or another in our lives, but I think it offers a great deal of hope. In a way, we are like the neglected block of marble that Michelangelo took and turned into a piece of art. God sees His beloved children as his art; we are His handiwork. We are all weathered blocks of marble, being chiseled by God into something whole as our lives progress. God has the ability to take our brokenness and turn it in to a work of art.

Art can arise out of the most unlikely things. I am humbled and very fortunate to have had the opportunity to see such a multifaceted masterpiece. I didn’t take any photos, but I know that Michelangelo’s artistry will be engrained in my mind forever.

See you in Rome,

Madelyn

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