On this day in 1501, Michelangelo began work on his monumental sculpture of David. It's a fascinating story, with one of the most beautiful sculptures in the world being created out of a flawed block of marble that had already been used and abused in an attempt to make it into something else.
I had planned to write a long post about this, being that Michelangelo is my favorite artist. I love that he kept insisting that he was a sculptor, damn it, yet also painted some of the greatest frescoes ever conceived. I get that he was prickly and cranky and generally hard to deal with, but in those fantasy "Which ten people would you invite to a dinner party if you could ask anyone, dead or alive" he would be high on the list, simply because he did so many things, so well. Besides being a sculptor and a painter, he was also an architect (he was architect for St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, taking over from a succession of earlier architects, including Bramante, and designed the dome) and a poet.
Anyway, I was going to write about Michelangelo and the David, but it was a very busy day around here - getting my roommate's car fixed (it was out of commission for almost two weeks), signing up for a couple of computer classes that start in a month or so (I need to add some new skills to my resume), taking books back to the library, buying groceries, grading assignments for my roommate...basically just running about like a madwoman in the heat all day. The time just got away from me.
So, I'll save my Michelangelo geekery for another day, and leave you with this (and a word of warning - Michelangelo did not give David a fig leaf):
I'm also going to recommend the book "The Agony and the Ecstasy" (1961), by Irving Stone. It is a big, old-style biographical novel, something Stone specialized in during his career. This book was my introduction to Michelangelo, and I love it. It is a long book, but from things I've read about Michelangelo's life and work since, it seems to be very well researched and brings Michelangelo and his times to life in a very convincing way.
But please, read the book. I wouldn't recommend the film of the same name (from 1965), though. For some reason someone thought it was a good idea to cast Charlton Heston as Michelangelo. This was a bad, bad choice, on physical grounds alone. Heston was tall, a few inches over six feet. Michelangelo was only a little over five feet tall. And that was just the beginning of the problems with the film. I agree with the New York Times review of the film from when it was first released - Heston could manage only to find the cranky side of Michelangelo. Although that's one of the things the artist was known for, it was not his only side, something that is clear in the book the film was based on.
Really. Read the book.