Michelangelo was a Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer, who had amazing vision. Michelangelo’s David, sculpted from 1501 to 1504, is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture and one of Michelangelo’s two greatest works of sculpture, along with the Pieta. The 17’ marble statue portrays the Biblical King David at the moment that he decides to do battle with Goliath. It was unique and original in its time. In their own work, other sculptors such as Donatello and Verrocchio had depicted David as a fierce warrior, holding the giant head of Goliath like a trophy. But Michelangelo’s pose was almost tranquil, portraying David with a rock held loosely in his right hand and the slingshot slung casually over his shoulder. Yet, his face exudes the focused concentration of the vanquishing hero.*
The point is that Michelangelo saw art where others only saw rock. When asked where he found the exquisite man who modeled for his sculpture of David, he is said to have explained, “In every block of marble I see a statue as plain as though it stood before me, shaped and perfect in attitude and action. I have only to hew away the rough walls that imprison the lovely apparition to reveal it to the other eyes as mine see it.”
Not many realize that the block of marble given to Michelangelo was used marble. It had been given to Agostino di Duccio who failed to complete the statue. Forty years would pass and though Leonardo da Vinci and others were consulted, it was Michelangelo, only twenty-six years old, who convinced the powers that he deserved the commission. Michelangelo was given this hand-me-down stone, which had been left out in the elements and damaged. Despite being an old and weathered piece of mishandled marble, through the tools of the artist, this became a masterpiece and one of the most recognizable statues the world has ever known.
I think this is a magnificent lesson. My Brother, this is how the Grand Architect sees each of us. This is how we must remember to see ourselves. Even if flawed with work to do on our Masonic edifice, we must remember that there is greatness inside each of us that needs to be unlocked. As Masons, we are taught important lessons which teach us to chisel the corners of rough stone to reveal beauty where there was once only imperfect rock.
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it,” Michelangelo said. “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free,” Michelangelo said about one of his creations. He saw David, he saw the Pieta, he saw Moses.
My Brother, what do you see?
Yours in Brotherhood,
Robert J. Gregory, WM
*Material from the Wikipedia Article “David (Michelangelo)” at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelangelos_David