We took a day trip to Florence, Firenze, a place I had longed to see since my undergraduate days as an art major. As I had expected, the city was full of famous artwork and architecture at every turn. Even the view from the road leading up to the Ponte Vecchio (seen here) looked like a Renaissance painting.
Yet of all the iconic images we encountered, none could match the magnificence of Michelangelo's David. I took this photo of the replica that stands in the Piazza della Signoria, where the original stood until the 1800s. And while it is an amazing copy, I have never seen anything as exquisite as the original David, which is housed a few blocks away in the Accademia delle Belle Arti. A photograph of the original can be seen on here on Wikipedia.
The original David's 2003 cleaning left it looking immaculate, except for a few toes on his left foot that had been attacked by a vandal in the early 1990s. Standing before this sculpture, I felt humbled and awed. I can only describe it as the closest thing to perfection that I have experienced in my life. We were lucky enough to be in the museum when there were very few people, so were able to view the statue up close, for an extended period of time. We were amazed by the intricate detail -- each of the veins in David's hands and feet were meticulously crafted, the slight wrinkle in his brow, the skin stretched slightly above his belly button.
Photos cannot do justice to the miracle of this sculpture. In person, it is difficult to believe that it is made of marble, of stone, and is not a living, breathing, perfect human. I recalled learning in art history that Michelangelo claimed that he did not create his sculptures, but rather simply released the already-formed pieces from the rocks with which he worked. This concept really hit home in viewing the David -- how could a mere mortal create something so perfect?