Last week, my art history class and I visited the Accademia, home of Michelangelo’s David. The statue was intended for one of the buttresses of the Florence cathedral, but when it was finished, the Signoria decided to place it in front of Palazzo della Signoria as a symbol of the Florentine Republic. Michelangelo chose a marble black discarded by the sculpture Agnostino di Duccio. The statue stands forty feet above the ground, and from afar, does not look nearly that large. As we walked forward, the statue became massive and mighty. The details from afar were powerful, and up close even more elaborate. Compared to Donatello’s David, Michelangelo’s is a lot manlier, while Donatello’s is a younger, more realistic sculpture. Donatello’s is in a strong contraposto pose, standing on a head, looking very victorious. Michelangelo’s is a more sexually attractive sculpture that is calmer yet assertively posed.
The Accademia contains multiple works by Michelangelo. We viewed St. Matthew and The Prisoners. St. Matthew created in 1505 to decorate one of the buttresses of the Florence Cathedral but was never finished by Michelangelo. Pope Julius II had called Michelangelo to Rome to build his tomb and paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling therefore the statue was never finished. Michelangelo believed that the figure was already trapped inside the marble and the artist had to release it from its marble prison, a Neo-platonic concept. The statue at first looks as though it has no head, but when you look carefully, there is a shadow of a face above the arm. The marble is also very interesting to view because it shows the details of the state of marble, as it is being created into a statue, very fascinating! The Prisoners were created in 1527-30 and intended for the tomb of Pope Julius II. This kept Michelangelo occupied for forty years. The creation was going to be a three story free standing structure with the burial chamber in the ground story and at least sixteen prisoners attached to the outer wall. The project, however, had become smaller as the years went by because the Medici family had called Michelangelo to Florence. The monument was finally set in San Pietro in Vincoli, but when Michelangelo died, they were placed in the Boboli gardens and remained here until 1904 when they were brought to the Accademia. We viewed three of the prisoners: Atlas, The Bearded Prisoner, and The Beardless Prisoner. They could symbolize the terrirories conquered by Julius II, the arts imprisoned because of the pope’s death, or the Neo-Platonic view of the body as earthly prison of the soul. The prisoners seem to try freeing themselves from the marble block that holds them captive and from which they are unable to detach themselves from the marble.
The fourth work of art, Palestrina Pieta, we viewed today was very symbolic. It is unsure who the artist was; many say Michelangelo, however, due to non-proportioned body parts, many believe it was not his work. I don’t believe I have enough knowledge to make much of a substantive opinion, however, it seems Michelangelo’s art is pretty well proportioned, but this could have been a new symbolic work of art.