From Marble to Flesh

Rupsa Ray: ‘Not only he was to be worshiped, he was non-achievable also. And even if he was achieved, his life wouldn’t have satisfied the womanly love, because he was not to stay at home’

It was spring, with a tinge of wintry gust of wind. Tuscany province was bright in sun, walking up and down, through the city, we crossed the bridge over the Arno, and reached Della Accademia Florence. David lives there. Michelangelo’s David, the most celebrated iconography of a male nude, symbolizing the renaissance rationality and defending the city from the aggression of evil power (philistine giant, Goliath) with his skill and courage. Michelangelo was in Rome, when he made Pieta in 1498-1499, and while carving the marble for David, he was in Florence (1501-1504).

I knew David from the days of my adolescence, in literature, in popular art, in fantasy of the painters, in curiosity, in books meant for adults. I never thought I would see David, in his originality, in his facial details, in his muscular arms, in his blood and flesh, as prominent as truth, in his wrath, in his integrity, in his passion, in his strength, in his resolution, in his intellect, in his beauty, in his activity… in the war zone with his only sling in one hand and a stone in another. I never thought of seeing him in real. But I did. I saw him in his house, where with furrowed brow, looking over his left shoulder into the distance, he was in search of Goliath, the evil giant, the irrational spirit with its enormous bodily presence.

David was indifferent, neutral to the crowd of tourists. He was conscious with a sharp concentration, apparently he was looking for the evil, but his vision was far, far from the immediate reality, to an uncertain but intelligent future, in search of truth, infinite. And there lied his beauty. I became flabbergasted.

Florence, is a city of sculptors. Outside the Della Accademia, the square was full of statues. One can feel claustrophobic in the place as it resumed a breathless moment. But David was not there. David was not for public. He had to be seen with a proper ticket. On a pedestal he was standing erect. His arms were disproportionate, larger than the body-proportion. But for the viewers, that did not matter as the beauty of the naked man was overwhelming. I heard someone saying, `look his penis is small! He is frightened!’ I too observed that. But the explanation did not suit me. Perhaps, his libido was low due to the essence of rationality that renaissance period had endorsed, where expression of animal/ physical instinct itself was an evil and had to be controlled and suppressed by rationality. He symbolized the eternal hero, who was firm in his duties, in oblivion to the outer world or earthly material desire. He was professed for a greater cause to be fulfilled, disinterested in the mundane details of common life. Not only he was to be worshiped, he was non-achievable also. And even if he was achieved, his life wouldn’t have satisfied the womanly love, because he was not to stay at home. He was on the road, leading the mass to rebel and resist against the ugly enormous presence of the evil. His vision to fight the evil was eternal, as the evil itself was eternal.

Someone said, ‘if you had seen the David of Michelangelo, you need not see the other sculptures in the world’. May be the saying sounds a bit excessive, but it is true that David is a life-time experience. In your solitude, if you don’t have a hand to hold, you can run to him, in your fantasy, in your imagination and lift his right hand up, around your face and be held in a breathless moment. You can suffer from claustrophobia, but you are sure you wanted it badly, you wanted to be his beloved, though you know, his love is universal, too big to be confined in your worldly heart.

Words and Photos: Rupsa Ray

About the author: Rupsa Ray is a journalist in Kolkata. She is interested in literature and social sciences. And she loves to write.


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