“Look at his veins.”
My husband whispered to me.
“Seriously, you can see his veins.”
Tyler and I stood dumbstruck in the Accademia, the museum in Florence, Italy, housing Michelangelo’s famous statue of David. From just about everyone, we knew to take the time to visit him. David impresses everyone. He’s not cliché. He’s not touristy. You can see his veins.
For those who don’t know the background, Michelangelo accepted the commission to create a sculpture for the top of the Duomo, Florence’s iconic domed church. With a slab of marble other artists had rejected (many saw it as too flawed, too big, too much), Michelangelo created the definitive symbol of a Renaissance Man.
As my husband and I listened to an audio guide on our iPhones, David stood in all of his glory – all 17 feet of him, with nothing more than a few rocks and a sling and the power of God dwelling in his perfectly chiseled body, ready to face down a giant. He’s relaxed, composed, a little wary, but poised for battle.
My husband and I walked in slow circles, over and over, taking in every detail of David. I marveled at his muscles, his composure, the features of his face. And then, I would remind myself – he’s not actually human. Of course he’s marble and stone, but he’s so incredibly human that he tricks you. I mean, you can see his veins.
The hall leading up to David’s special cathedral features unfinished sculptures created by Michelangelo. These sculptures, for whatever reason, remained unfinished by the master and left for other projects. Roughly cut, the bumpy chisel marks still visible, art historians named them The Prisoners because the sculptures stay captive in their block marble holding cells. Looking at The Prisoners and then looking at David in his polished nakedness, it’s easy to see Vasari, a friend and contemporary, saying Michelangelo’s subjects emerged from the marble like a person emerging from a pool of water. It’s quite breathtaking.
Michelangelo worked in a fever. He would chisel away for hours on end until his prisoner trapped in marble would emerge. He didn’t sketch something out beforehand or use a model. He didn’t go back to add on embellishments. He saw the art and released it.
Too often, I look at the ideas of others, and they seem so polished and beautiful. My own ideas feel locked, held back by imperfections, by lack of inspiration, huge barrier blocks holding onto my ideas, not releasing them. In comparison, my work is amateur and insignificant.
I don’t see behind-the-scenes. I don’t see the consistent hard word that comes along with the polished, the beautiful, the inspired. The everyday hacking away, slicing off the rough patches and edges, cutting to the heart of the matter.
Before I can get to the veins, I have to do this work, and I can’t wait around for the perfect slab of marble to create it.