On Michelangelo’s David

December 29, 2009 @ 8:45 pm | Filed under: , ,


“During the tour I became separated from the group, and, searching blindly through the corridors of the Galleria dell’Accademia, I came upon the statue from the wrong direction. Suddenly there it was. My first glimpse of it was from the reverse. It is normally viewed from the front, and from that direction one sees a powerful body firmly planted on the earth, poised, balanced, muscular, set in its essential form, like the triumph of the will.

“But I saw it first from an entirely different vantage point: viewed from behind, the figure appeared to be glancing back over his shoulder. The image of the noble torso was dominated by David’s facial expression. The eyes, the mouth, the brows, and the sinews of the face were taut with an emotion that is so quintessentially human: a split second of uncertainty and a groping for faith, the moment when courage overcomes terror—not as animal instinct but as a spiritual decision. From the front it appears as an embodiment of confident resolve; from the rear it is about doubt. That was the artist’s intention, and that is its word. It is concerned above all with the struggle of the human spirit.”

—from Strangers and Sojourners, Michael D. O’Brien

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3 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. MelanieB says:

    You know I never really liked Michelangelo’s David very much. But Michael O’Brien does make me see him with new eyes. I never before saw anything but the celebration of power and beauty… to perceive uncertainty and moment of decision and courage, that does make me appreciate it more.

  2. Karen Edmisten says:

    I love Strangers and Sojourners so very much. Time for a Christmas break reread of it, I think.

  3. kmom says:

    We used to live in Sioux Falls, SD. They have a copy of this statue out near the river. It is carefully turned and partially covered with tall shrubbery so one doesn’t get a full frontal view unless one makes the effort. The look over the shoulder is the one you can see drving by.
    I’d never pondered the expression before!