I'm back from my trip to Bendigo and in the middle of writing up my impressions of the exhibition: Frida Kahlo Her Photos. It's appallingly hot so working at half pace. But I have some mail to attend to.
KM of Sydney sent me this photo of the right hand of David - Michelangelo's David with the comment on the genius of the sculptor. So I decided to do a little more research and extend our knowledge of David’s Hands. (Credit: Galleria dell Accademia)
Michelangelo's David which is housed in the Galleria dell'Academia in Florence, is one of the most famous works of art. Make sure you see the original as the one outside the Palazzo Vecchio (Florence's Town Hall) is also a marble sculpture but sadly a copy.
Most of you will know that the statue is of the biblical figure David who killed the giant Goliath. Michelangelo began his masterpiece in 1501. It is larger that life-size and his right hand is out of proportion with the rest of the body so as to emphasise that David was manu fortis - (strong of hand).
There is research to suggest that David might have held a secret weapon in his overly large right hand. Art historians Sergio Risaliti and Francesco Vossilla wrote in the book L’Altro David (The Other David) that David’s right hand is gripping the cylindrical fragment of a weapon called a fustibal, or staff-sling, used to throw stones.
With a leather sling attached to the end, the staff acted like a portable trebuchet (a large catapult-like device)," classical folklorist Adrienne Mayor, who was not involved in the study, told Discovery News. The Bible says that when David went to fight Goliath, he took up his shepherd's staff, five smooth stones and his sling. Of these, only the latter is represented in Michelangelo’s sculpture, as David holds the pouch of the sling in his left hand, above his shoulder. (nbcnews.com)
Crossing his back down to the right hand, the straps of the rather long sling appear to be attached to a mysterious object. “We believe the object is actually the handle to which a staff had to be mounted, much alike a golf pole,” Risaliti told Discovery News.* (nbcnews.com)
Combining the right hand and the left hand, the staff and the sling, Michelangelo would have actually fitted David with a fustibal, according to the researchers. Standing high atop the Cathedral — this was the destination first envisioned for the sculpture — the weapon would have remained secret, as people would have only seen David holding a staff in his right hand and the sling’s pouch in his left. “The staff was perfectly fitting a statue originally commissioned for Florence Cathedral. It would have rendered the biblical depiction of the shepherd boy,” Risaliti said. Boasting a range of up to 600 feet, the fustibal was known since Roman times, and was first mentioned by the 4th century A.D. military writer Vegetius. According to the researchers, it was also well known when Michelangelo (1475 –1564) begun sculpting his David in 1501. Represented in several drawings by Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 –1519), the fustibal also appears in the artist's Lorenzo Ghiberti’s "Gates of Paradise" on the east portal of the Baptistery — in the panel in which Ghiberti (1378 –1455) depicts David’s victory over Goliath. The researchers speculate that the fustibal in the panel might have influenced Michelangelo, who greatly admired Ghiberti’s work. The staff, however, was never mounted on the handle, likely because of the decision to display the 17-foot naked marble man beside the main doorway of the Piazza della Signoria.
“A shepherd staff wasn’t fitting with the political meaning of the statue, which became the first public Italian monument,” Risaliti said. Transformed into a symbol of the republican freedom, David was first shown in Piazza Signoria on Sept. 8, 1504, and there it remained, at the mercy of the elements, until 1873 when it was moved to its present location in the Galleria dell'Accademia. (nbcnews.com)
Of course, no every one agrees and other scholars are skeptical about the staff sling. But it makes for a good story.
We also have a new subscriber to welcome to the blog. L of Wheelers Hill has joined us. I know she likes creating mosaic works so you can look forward to a return to this art form in the future. In the meantime, a review of the Frida Kahlo Exhibition and then moving onto eyes and brows- Following in Frida’s Footsteps.