|My view of Michelangelo's David in the Galleria dell' Accademia in Florence, Italy.|
I recently returned from my first trip to Italy, the inspiring and enriching experiences of which could fill the next year's worth of "Art for Thought" columns. I was contemplating which part of the trip I wanted to write about for this month's issue, and after reading Michael Gormley's sentiments about truth in art in his Editor's Note, I knew which story I wanted to share.
I came across numerous artworks throughout Italy that spoke to me, but there was one in particular that had a truly profound effect—one of those rare artistic encounters where you know you are experiencing craftsmanship and creative genius in its highest form. It was Michelangelo's David. I had read and written about the sculpture since I was in college, and I knew it was considered a masterpiece, but I didn't expect it to elicit the reaction that it did. I had seen works of art that were deemed masterpieces and they had left me relatively unmoved, and I wondered if it was going to be the same type of experience.
It was not. I spent the first 20 minutes seated on the bench looking up at this massive miracle of marble in stunned silence, contemplating the message Michelangelo wanted to convey. I was not alone in my awestruck wonder, but the equally speechless gentleman next to me eventually asked, "What do you think it is about this that makes it so compelling?" I didn't have many words at the moment, but I responded by saying that there is something beyond the work itself, some eternal truth coming through that is still relevant after all these centuries.
When I got up and walked around the sculpture, I thought of the story of David and Goliath and the incredible tenacity this young shepherd boy had to face a Philistine giant whom no one else in the Israelite army could conquer. We know that he emerged victorious, but I think it's interesting that Michelangelo chose to depict David before the victory. He is shown courageously staring down his opponent with only a sling and a stone in his hands, strong in stature, unwavering in his determination—yet you know that as a human being, he had to have some doubt and fear. And if you walk around the statue several times and catch his glance at just the right angle, you see the slightest trace of that trepidation.
That is where the truth comes through in this work—the relatable human emotion that resonates with all of us. Who hasn't faced adversity or had to find strength to fight a seemingly insurmountable circumstance? When I went back to the bench, the gentleman by the name of Bruce Brummond shared what he does for a living. He is an author and speaker who has come up with hundreds of acronyms to express the meaning of words. He shared his definition of art as "Always Respect Truth." Truth in art, as Michael Gormley suggested in his editor's note, is that which gets our attention because it recalls life and resonates with us all. And that's exactly what Michelangelo's David was to me: a timeless reminder of our capacity to face our fears with courageous faith, and emerge triumphant.
Allison Malafronte is the senior editor of American Artist.