Such a Thing

On January 25th, 1504, city officials of the Signoria and representatives of the artist community were at an emergency meeting in Florence. All thirty of them had just come from a viewing of the commission and all were equally concerned. Things had only begun to calm after twelve years of intrigue and turmoil in Italy. The famines and plagues were abating and Florence, Milan, and Rome were at a temporary peace. Tensions were still high, though, and a symbol of defiance might not be prudent. The question was: Where to put it then?

Botticelli argued for it to be placed at the Cathedral. But da Vinci pointed out that exposure to the elements would exacerbate the structural flaws in the marble. Besides, it was a nude. Flagrantly so. It was beyond the sensibilities of the average church-goer in these prudish times.

Di Cosimo and Lippi suggested it be placed at the Palazzo Vecchio. This idea quickly gained acceptance among the group.

A goldsmith, Andreas “Il Riccio,” heard the last suggestion and shuddered. He was thinking of the menace he felt when he saw it. “This thing is going to elicit reaction, there is no question,” he thought. The tenseness in the neck. The coursing, enlarged veins. The horrible stare. Ready for battle. It was beautiful.

“At least let us confine it to the courtyard,” he pleaded. “It will be covered there and we will be able to regard it privately. It is not for such a thing to go towards the passerby!”

When Michelangelo’s David was uncovered six months later at the entrance of the City Council, it was facing south – towards Rome. The Florentines who saw it’s view from the west, saw only the softer side of the shepherd-warrior, his genitalia and “divine flanks” covered with a copper girdle.

No comments: