I’ve been asked what my favorite thing to see in Italy was. That’s a hard question because there was so much to see and a lot of it was really impressive. But one of the things that did impress me a lot was Michaelangelo’s David. We’ve all seen pictures and images and it’s become in many ways an icon of the Renaissance, but looking at it close up in real life is quite a different experience. There’s a difference in seeing something on a small book page and in seeing it in 14-foot white marble.
Since we couldn’t take pictures inside the Accademia (where the David is located) the above image from Wikipedia will have to do. As I was saying, there’s a lot you don’t see in a picture. You don’t see the exquisitely small details like the veins in the arms or the fact that even the finger and toenails are accurate. All this even when Michaelangelo knew that the statue would be on top of the Duomo and none of these details would be visible from afar. You also notice that his hands and feet are unusually large for the same reason.
Looking at the David, I saw a work of art but I also saw a glimpse of Michaelangelo’s passion, commitment and expertise. It’s easy to look at pieces like that the David and not really think about the artist behind it. But it’s worth remembering that these works that we venerate and love are the result of hundreds, maybe even thousands of hours of human labor. And you can’t fake dedication like that. I can imagine the love of his art that must have driven Michaelangelo to make something so exquisite.
Being an engineer, I can relate to Michaelangelo in some way. often when making a design I have a certain specification to follow but I often find myself going above and beyond what is needed to build something that doesn’t just work, but works well. Of course, I haven’t made anything remotely close to the David, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling a sort of kinship with Michaelangelo and his contemporaries. In an age where so much emphasis is placed on speed and deadlines at the cost of everything else, it’s good to look on works like the David and be reminded that there is something to be said for quality and the pursuit of excellence.