Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tuesday is David Day

Well today was the big day, pretty much the main reason I've been wanting to visit Florence - my day to see Michelangelo's David. The day started out a little later than I'd hoped; I'd wanted to be at the museum a bit before the 8:15 opening time, but alas, I don't have an alarm clock here, and thus I overslept. When I arrived at about 8:30 after scarfing down a quick pastry (delicious! kind of like a cross between a canoli and a lemon bar), there was already a substantial line. I expected a bit of a wait, so I wasn't too upset, and at first I mused about how amazing it is that I'm on this trip, getting to do things like visiting David. I also read a bit of my Florence guidebook, which has been my go-to entertainment all week so far.

Two hours later, I was still waiting. I didn't end up getting into the museum until about 10:45, at which point I was thoroughly sweaty but still full of anticipation. At least I had something to entertain me in the meantime - all along the wall where we were lined up, previous bored visitors had written their names, messages, pictures, and all sorts of other doodles. What is with this human impulse to write our names on things, especially when we're touring? It's definitely not a new phenomenon, as we know the ancient Romans carved their names on the pyramids when they went to visit Egypt. In fact, I'm really looking forward to looking at the Roman graffiti in Pompeii. I didn't add my name to the wall, because I didn't know whether the people around me in line would be fellow graffiti enthusiasts, and also because I didn't have a Sharpie, but generally I'm very interested in this sort of activity.

Finally, I was at the door, and I was allowed in. I took the first room of quattrocento painting slowly, letting the anticipation build. The funny thing is that by this point, after seeing the copies of David in front of the Palazzo Vecchio and at the Piazzale Michelangelo, I was starting to wonder if the real thing could possibly live up to my expectations. Then I turned the corner. And it did.

(Once again, I wasn't allowed to take pictures, so I'm using the best I could find online to approximate my experience. Could this somehow be related to that thing where Tuscany recently decided to copyright its entire landscape? Whatever the case may be, I'm hoping the Roman museums and churches won't be such buttheads about pictures.)

Seeing David was a pure thrill. I stared and stared, moving a few feet at a time so I could study him from every angle. I even went away into another gallery for a little bit, and then came back and stared again. I wasn't the only one, either. I heard one lady tourist say reverently, "Now, that was worth seeing," and I agree with her. I can honestly say that this sculpture has earned every bit of its fame.

The other major exciting moment for me in the Accademia was more of a chance for me to geek out about sculpture. This time, I'm really sorry I didn't sneak a picture, because I probably could have gotten away with it, and the only one I was able to find just doesn't do the room justice. This was the Accademia's nineteenth-century gallery, packed to the gills with plaster models and neoclassical paintings. Talk about evoking the Grand Tour! The bulk of the plaster models were the originals from which marbles were made by Lorenzo Bartolini and Luigi Pampaloni, two names that weren't very familiar to me but that I think will be soon, after I do some work to learn about them. The dates for most of these plasters were in the 1830s and 1840s, so shortly before the first waves of American neoclassical sculptors would have expatriated to Rome. And a lot of them looked like they could have been by Hiram Powers, Randolph Rogers, and Harriet Hosmer. I'm wondering if my guys knew these guys, and I'm really looking forward to finding out.

I promised to post my favorite examples of the marketing of David, and I have some doozies, some of which may not exactly be safe for work (so don't blow them up unless you have screen privacy). This first one was taken of a souvenir cart while I was waiting online. At first, I didn't realize what I was seeing, and then I kind of didn't believe it. Yes, that's a pot holder. With.... um. Apparently, Florentine souvenir dealers are obsessed with a certain part of David. It kind of confuses me, though, because if you look at the size of his hands.... well..... never mind.

It wasn't just the dealers outside who were interested in reducing David to body parts, though - the Accademia shop also got in on the act, although a little more artfully. My favorite example was this calendar, which gives you a different shot of a part of David for each month. Which month gets his bum, I wonder? Also, why would one want to spend an entire year looking only at fragments of David? Seems kind of monotonous to me.

Also fun were these eyeglass cloths. I've seen lots of these in various souvenir shops around Florence, and it's sort of an interesting idea - I've never seen anything like this in American art souvenir shops. It's not a bad idea for merchandising, though, because if the art history department at UD is any indicator, it seems that art historians tend to be kind of fetishistic about their glasses. And apparently, marketing David is all about being fetishistic, so the two go well together. Maybe we all need to get our own sets of David cloths for cleaning our glasses!

On that note, one last souvenir window display. Upper right, apron. And boxer shorts. Yeah.

I'm starting to feel like I attended some sort of weird art history bachelorette party.

And I think I need a shower.


  1. I'm so glad the David experience met your expectations, especially after waiting so long.
    Ooooo la la to some of those souvenirs! Now let's see, do I need and aprons or pot holders? ...nah. Hope you are having a lovely evening.

  2. Afterthoughts: serial killer museum + body parts on aprons and pot holders = ? Are those vendors anywhere near the SKM?

  3. Ha! Not all that near each other, I'm afraid.

    Speaking of chopped up body parts, have you guys watched Dexter yet? :)

  4. Oh my goodness.. this is amazing.. Uh.. Can you pick me up a pot holder? Awesome in so many, many ways!!! Glad to see you geeking out and having fun. You deserve it, sculpture buddy! xo,