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Friday, December 28, 2012

Michelangelo's 'David-Apollo' arrives for President Obama's inauguration

Michelangelo Buonarroti (Italian, 1475-1564), David-Apollo, c. 1530, marble, Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Florence
Not only to celebrate President Obama's second inauguration but to herald a year of Italian splendor and culture in the U.S. to the tune of more than 180 events in 40+ U.S. cities, a statue with its very own mystery has come to Washington, again.
At the National Gallery of Art, His Excellency Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata, Italian minister of foreign affairs, and Ann Stock from the U.S. State Department, shared the platform with David-Apollo/patricia leslie
To begin:
Like many of us, Michelangelo (1475-1564) was not totally pleased with some of his work.  He abandoned many pieces he started and never finished (non-finito).
Sometimes he accepted more work than he was able to complete. He was an Italian Renaissance man.
Fortunately, Michelangelo didn’t pitch his incomplete pieces in the fire, but many were spared, like his David-Apollo, now on view at the National Gallery of Art through the graces of the Italian government and the lending institution, Museo Nazionale del Bargello in Florence.
But the marble statue has two names split by a hyphen. What is the meaning of this? Is it David or Apollo or both? Only the creator knew for sure.
Michelangelo’s biographer, Giorgio Vasari, called the statue “an Apollo who draws an arrow from his quiver,” however, a 1553 inventory labeled the work, "an incomplete David" with his sling over his back.
The figure's pose is serpentinata which invites viewers to circle David-Apollo and observe different components where surprises may be found on each sequence which makes the ambiguity more alluring.
Take David-Apollo's legs, for example.
Wikipedia mixes them up saying the right leg is extended when it’s the left, and the left leg (actually, the right) is bent over what may be a pile of dirt, or Goliath’s head, which, once the idea is mentally carved, is hard to escape, and adds support to the David argument. (The National Gallery of Art has its own marble David, (c.1461/1479), this one by Bernardo (1409-1464) or Antonio Rossellino (1427-1478-1481; they were brothers) with David’s foot resting on Goliath's head. Maybe Michelangelo copied this statue?)  (Some of these facts and more are found in the handsome four-page color brochure available at the David-Apollo statue.)
Stand at David-Apollo's left side and look under his right foot for the semblance of a male head's silhouette with nose and facial features facing up, and, honestly, yes, due to the power of suggestion, sometimes it's there; sometimes, it's not.  (Honestly, this happens.) However, make your spiral galaxy over to the other side where you'll find no hint of a person's face or head in the mound found under his foot, but what is this new form?  A circular mound of something. A pound of Earth?
The same year Michelangelo brought David-Apollo to life was the same year (1530) that Copernicus (1473-1543), another Renaissance man (and artist who studied in Italy), unveiled his De revolutionibus orbium coelestium which claimed that Earth was not the center of the universe, but it rotated on its axis and traveled around the sun once a year.
With his foot resting (maybe) on the Earth, is David-Apollo squashing flat the 1,400 year-old Ptolemaic theory which claimed that Earth was the center of the universe? Just a few astronomers at the time were aware of Copernicus’s theory and information exchange over long distances was quite limited (I dare say: rare) for the Renaissance preceded Social Media Daze. (Does this not make for the plot of a great mystery novel? You write it.)
Another angle: One glimpse of his leg muscles and the possibility that David-Apollo, in his spare time, may have been a danseur, swells. (That female hearts will not be captured by the looks of David-Apollo when gazing upon his person is almost an impossibility, and the figure may mesmerize a few men, too.)
You are invited to make your own comparisons and determine who is there: David or Apollo? Both? Be prepared to go round and round. (A ballot box for votes is not available, however, the guards are there to prohibit picture taking.)
To inaugurate 2013 as The Year of Italian Culture in the U.S. (but I thought every year was a year of Italian culture in the U.S.), David-Apollo will reside at the National Gallery of Art just off the West Building Courtyard (where the Sunday evening concerts are played) until March 3, 2013, marking the first time the statue has come to town since another inauguration, Harry S Truman’s in 1949 when almost 800,000 came calling.
Whoever, whatever is there, the people of the United States are grateful to the president of Italy, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassy of Italy in Washington, the Minister per I Beni e le Attivita Culturali and the National Gallery of Art for the grand opportunity to observe the masterpiece at no cost to the people, a loan which memorializes the long-lasting friendship between the two nations.
Viva l'amicizia!
January 3, 5, 7, and 9, 2013 at 12 p.m., West Building, talks by Eric Denker, a Gallery senior lecturer
January 27, 2 p.m. "Michelangelo's David-Apollo:  An Offer He Couldn't Refuse," East Building Auditorium by Alison Luchs, the Gallery's curator of early European sculpture, who wrote the brochure
February 11 at 3 p.m., an overview at the Embassy of Italy of the collection of Michelangelo's works at the Casa Buonarroti by its director, Pina Ragionieri
Who: David-Apollo by Michelangelo
What: To celebrate 2013 - The Year of Italian Culture in the U.S.
When: Now through March 3, 2013 every day from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. (Sundays: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.) excepting New Year's Day when the Gallery is closed
Where: West Building, National Gallery of Art, between 4th and 7th and Constitution Avenue, N.W.
How much: No charge
For more information: (202) 737-4215
Metro stations: Judiciary Square, Navy Memorial-Archives, or the Smithsonian
The Cherubs Playing With a Swan by Jean-Baptiste Tuby I (French, 1635-1700) on the left, were silent for the press opening of David-Apollo, and they remain silent today/patricia leslie

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