Sunday, April 15, 2018

Acts 4.5-12: Rejected

If it isn't the most famous sculpture in the world, it certainly makes everyone's Top Ten lists. And it perfectly exemplifies Peter's sermon example in Acts 4:5-12 (Easter 4B). Between 1501 and 1504, Michelangelo Buonarotti carved a standing male nude from a solid block of marble that had been quarried more than a quarter of a century before Michelangelo ever picked up a chisel.
Michelangelo. David. 1501-1504. Marble. Florence: Galleria dell'Accademia.
David stands just under 17 feet tall and weighs more than 12,000 pounds - that's 6 tons! The story of the work we see today is a long and twisting one. The original commission was for a series of large statues for upper niches on the Florence Cathedral (Italy). The statues would have been more than 200 feet above the ground. The original sculptor was Agostino di Duccio. He began work in 1464 (that's half a century before Michelangelo) but left the project after only very basic beginnings.

A decade or so later, the commission was taken up by Antonio Rossellino. He, too, made only beginning marks before abandoning the project.

What was the problem? We know that Rossellino complained about the quality of the marble. The block, quarried in Carrarra, had too many taroli - too many imperfections. The imperfections may have created weaknesses that followed veining, fault lines that could have caused the ruin of the sculpture. Modern scientific studies have confirmed that the marble is of mediocre quality.

So the block was rejected. The barely-begun David lay on his back in the courtyard of the Duomo's workshop. It was exposed to the elements for more than 25 years.

Then, in 1501, a 26-year-old sculptor began work on the project. The quarried block had been lying on its back since the sculptor was only a year old. He was given two years to complete the commission. He finished in 1504.

The finished piece was too heavy (6 tons!) to be put in the originally-intended niche, so it was placed at the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. In 1873 was moved indoors to its current site at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence. A replica was put at the original site.

If it isn't the most famous sculpture in the world, it certainly makes everyone's Top Ten lists. The stone that the sculptors rejected has become...well, if not the cornerstone, at least a centerpiece in the history of sculpture.

This week on Art&Faith Matters' Facebook page, read between the lines of Psalm 23. Click on this link.

For thoughts on John 10:11-18, click here.

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