Michelangelo’s statue of ‘David’ is world famous. A magnificent work of art which many consider to be one of the most outstanding sculptures ever created. At 17 feet tall and weighing more than 12,000 pounds, the statue is massive, yet it is sculpted from a single block of white marble.
There are many stories around Michelangelo and his David. One concerns Queen Victoria. In 1857, on seeing a replica of the statue, the good lady was so taken aback by David’s nudity that she ordered a plaster fig leaf to be cast to cover his genitals before he went on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London!
106 years later, in March 2023, not in Victorian England but Florida USA, Tallahassee Classical School board told school principal Hope Carrasquilla that she must resign or face the sack after a parent described the artwork as “pornographic”, following her decision to show an image of the sculpture to 11 and 12-year-old students!
I find more interesting than either of these stories the story concerning Michelangelo’s construction of the statue. The block of marble he used was a reject. Some years before Michaelangelo, two other famous sculptors, Agostino di Duccio and Antonio Rossellino, had been commissioned for the statue, but had both given up claiming that the marble was full of flaws and below the standard they demanded. The block was therefore left lying around in some warehouse for half a century unwanted, and deemed worthless – until, that is, Michelangelo came along.
The story goes that, one day, Michelangelo spotted the discarded block and spotted immediately David concealed within it. His work, he is supposed to have said, consisted only in chipping away at the marble till David appeared. Michelangelo had an almost mystical belief that the figure he carved already existed fully formed within the block of stone. By studying the raw marble, he could sense where the figure stood. Then layer by layer, blower by blower, after four years of hard labour, he liberated from this rocky prison his creation - the magnificent statue of David.
I find the story of Michelangelo’s David similar to our own.
There are moments in many of our lives when we feel like the marble block dejected, rejected, and below standard. The rise in mental illness, the self-harming and the suicide rates, especially among younger people, are shocking indications of this sense of worthlessness. This month of January is known as a time of depression for many people when we can feel discouraged by ourselves and by those around us. We make New Year resolutions to improve ourselves, giving up this, that, and the other, making projects to do better than we did last year. Making resolutions are fine, perhaps, so long as we do not fall into the trap of Michelangelo’s colleagues.
Like them, we can look solely at the flaws in ourselves, seeing ourselves as rejects. Or, on the contrary, we can choose to look deeper and become aware of the amazing person already within us. Deep within us we discover that, despite our flaws, we are more beautiful than any statue. We are flesh and blood human beings striving to live the very best we can.
Feel free as always to get back to me with your comments. I find them inspiring. And I am always available for life coaching and/or counselling.
All things shall be well.