To see the statue of David, for the first time takes your breath away. In the tribune at the end of a long gallery lit naturally from above by a glass cupola, this statue is the most beautiful man-made thing I’ve ever seen. You know the familiar story from the Bible in I Samuel, Chapter 17 of the young David, the future king of Israel, who though only a shepherd boy defeats the Philistine giant Goliath in single combat with only a sling.
This David’s gaze to his left is penetrating, his eyebrows heavy, his brow is furrowed, his hair is tousled, almost a whirl of linguine. Many commentators say that this is a visage of intelligence, not the usual triumphant victor after cutting off Goliath’s head, as is often portrayed. His nose and nostrils are large, yet his mouth is rather narrow. He looks like Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins.
His right hand seems oversized. The veins of his right hand, wrist, and arm are bulging… but not those of his left. In his right hand, visible only from behind, can be seen a smooth round stone. His left hand is relaxed and holding the sling slung across his left shoulder.
A guide I overheard said that Michelangelo intended the statue to be seen from below, not at eye level as we often see him. If so, this would explain much.
Below and to the right of the statue is an exhibit of the Stanford Digital Michelangelo Project. This monitor displays the statue from different angles and different lighting, rotated in 3D. You’re able to see details that you can’t see from a distance. Impressive.
The Galleria dell’Accademia is one of the “must see” places in Florence for art, especially sculpture and plasters. However, most people go there to see “the David.” Make sure you make a reservation ahead of time.
There is a copy that stands along with seven other statues outdoors in the Piazza della Signoria, in front of the Palazzo Vecchio (Old Palace) which is the seat of the Florence civic government and political hub of the city — and the original site of the statue. But it’s not the same as experiencing the original statue at the Accademia Gallery.