“He’d a make a great basketball player. Look at those big hands.” That was my husband’s first comment as we walked up to the statue of Michelangelo’s David in the Academia Gallery in Florence, Italy. The white marble statue is 17 feet high and shows David ready to fight Goliath, the Philistine giant.
David’s hands do look big, but Michelangelo made them that way because initially David was created to stand outside a palace, rather than in an art gallery. From up close you can see the veins in his hands.
Michelangelo thought people would be viewing David from far away. He wanted them to be able to see all the details of his statue, including David’s hands. Although some people think the 29-year-old Michelangelo made a mistake when he carved David’s large hands, experts agree their size was deliberate.
At age 24 Michelangelo began visiting morgues. He would cut up unclaimed corpses and study their anatomy. He was as well-trained as any physician in the body’s structure. He wouldn’t have made a mistake with David’s hands. He wanted them to be larger than life and powerful. From up close you can see the very veins in his hands.
Two other artists had rejected the piece of marble Michelangelo used for David because they claimed it lacked perfection. Michelangelo was able to create something beautiful despite the flawed material he had been given.
We visited the statue of David on a February day along with a few other hardy souls who were braving Florence at the coldest time of the year. The absence of the crowds that usually mill around David made it possible for us to spend about 40 minutes examining not only his hands but all his features from every side.
David has a determined, focused look in his eye. His cheeks are smooth and his upper lip is just a little bigger than the lower one. His nostrils are slightly flared, his brow mildly furrowed and his hair classically curly.
My husband Dave is right. Michelangelo’s David does have big hands. He also has a big heart, one filled with enough courage, confidence and youthful enthusiasm to try the impossible and succeed.
Just the way his creator Michelangelo succeeded when he took an imperfect piece of marble and turned it into something that has become one of the most universally recognized pieces of art in the world.
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