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Happy Birthday, Michelangelo

6 March 2010



St. Matthew, unfinished sculpture by MichelangeloAround the world people “come and go talking of Michelangelo.” Today, 6 March, is the 535th celebration of his birth. His famous finished sculptures—David, Moses, and the Pietà—are exemplary of his artistry, but it’s the unfinished works that show us his craft. The sculpture of St. Matthew shown here bares the fine tool marks of various sculpting tools and the surface finishes that demonstrate how Michelangelo began to carve a figure into the marble. In the same room at the Academy in Florence are four unfinished slaves which eloquently reveal his sculptural process. After outlining the figure on the front of the marble block, Michelangelo worked steadily inwards, in his own words, “liberating the figure imprisoned in the marble.” As the more projecting parts were reached, they were brought to a fairly finished state while parts further back were still only rough-hewn. In their unfinished state, these figures appear to struggle to free themselves from the stone. The pathos evoked by the unfinished state of these marble figures exerted a tremendous impact on Rodin who recognized in them expressive possibilities that would be lost in a ‘finished’ piece.

All artistry is a process. In whatever state, it is an interesting, compelling force of creativity. I think of the young singer David Archuleta at the beginning of his career and I hope to hear on his sophomore album some ‘unfinished’ pieces struggling to find David’s own self-expression.

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. St. Matthew. c. 1505. Galleria dell’Accademia, Firenze. Retrieved 4 March 2010, from http://graphics.stanford.edu/projects/mich/matthew/.

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2 responses so far ↓

  • Katheryn | 1 | 6th March 2010 at 4:27 pm |

    Minna: This post shows up in today’s Google Alert! Great topic. Reminds me of a conversation we had right before you left for Italy. Ha! Ha!

    The St. Matthew sculpture can be seen as a metaphor for David’s Idol journey. Like the figure in the marble, David and his artistry are being liberated as he emerges from the Idol machine.

  • kimbee | 2 | 9th March 2010 at 4:53 pm |

    Minna, awesome post. I do hope we get to see what is emerging from David’s song writing sessions. And Katheryn, I do hope David is being liberated to the extent he desires.