A few missions for today: First to the Academia, where Michelangelo’s David is housed. The last time I was here was at the end of April many years ago, and at the time the lines were excruciatingly long and there was barely room in the museum to breathe, so this time I bought tickets ahead of time for 9 am.
As it turns out, we probably didn’t need to purchase beforehand, given the time of year and time of day. Things were very quiet when we arrived. We walked right in, and first had a chance to see “Rape of the Sabine Women.”
Moving into the main hall, we passed the prisoners, which are 6 unfinished works by Michelangelo. The precision and regularity of the marks made by the chisel is remarkable. It is astounding that they were made entirely by hand, rather than machine.
These works baffle the mind in their humanity, with the figures struggling to throw off their stony shackles.
Beyond the prisoners, at the far end of the hall is the work for whom this space was built: David.
He stands, poised and unbowed, pensive, staring intently in the distance, considering his target. The sling, held in both hands, crosses his back, as though he is stretching and preparing.
According to the sign here, scholars debate whether this is before the battle with Goliath or after, but D and I agree that it feels like a “before” moment.
The hands are huge, and written large with veins.
There is perfection in the angles of his form, with the forearm at a 45 degree angle to the sternum.
It is amazing to us that this has been wrought by hand.
Next stop after the Academia is Museo San Marco, a former monastery which houses many early renaissance works of Fra Angelico, as well as the cell of Savonarola, the McCarthy of his day. The best of the works are stunning, although at times they become repetitive. Instead of the art itself D loves the cloister, the walled gardens that are so frequent here. “Sacred spaces,” he calls them, places in which to linger, and I find this a fitting term. Isolated from the external world, they are sacred, solemn, introspective, and contemplative.
Back into the bustle of the Florentine streets we wended our way over to San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapels, where yet more works of Michelangelo are found, with depictions of dawn, dusk, night, and day gracing the Medici tombs. His pieces are singular in their depiction of the human form.
My biggest disappointment here is that many years ago, during my first trip to Florence, a limited number of people each hour were permitted to view some sketches that Michelangelo scrawled on the wall while carving these pieces. This hasn’t been an option for years now. *sigh*
All of the above took place in the course of the morning, before a leisurely lunch at the food court in the San Lorenzo market. The afternoon was primarily focused on the Uffizi Gallery and some random street-wandering.
And this is one of the challenges of Florence. There is a sense of elegance, beauty, and history in her streets, and there is art at every corner, the like of which I have not seen elsewhere. The weight of the centuries of greatness rides on her back, and she carries them lightly, but not recklessly. Thus, whereas all of the museums and art, at some point, become strangely overwhelming and mundane in their commonality (“Another Michelangelo *yawn*”) the city herself does not. She is at once aged and ageless. She is an enchanting contradiction.
And this combination is why I love her, despite the Disney-esqe draw of tourists. Florence, in some sense, is barely even Italian anymore, while still consummately Italian. I think English is the first language here now, and Italian is merely secondary. My Italian is useless here – I speak it, and they switch to English. It frustrates me.
For people coming to Italy, Florence is a must-see, and a must-see-again. And to see Italy, really see Italy, it is a must-get-away-from. It makes every list, and with good reason, but when I am here I miss Bologna, which now feels like a much more real piece of Italy for me. But still Florence speaks to me, and I adore her, and I listen.