Reflections on the David (but no photos)

“No photo! No photo!”

The guards around the David in the Accademia Gallery in Florence dissuade you quickly if you should raise a camera or cell phone in the presence of Michelangelo‘s marble statue.

We visited the Accademia Wednesday and the Uffizi Thursday, viewing hundreds of paintings and statues by masters from centuries ago. Beautiful as they were, each was flawed. Baby Jesus often had the face of an adolescent or at least a boy old enough to run and play. Some masters tried to cram a few too many symbols into a picture. Proportions were occasionally out of whack.

But the David was perfect. Larger than life, he commands your attention from the next gallery. The unfinished Michelangelo statues in that gallery are interesting, definitely worth a look after you’ve seen the David. But you can’t pause to look at them once Goliath’s slayer catches your eye. You just move through the hall, watching David as you move closer.

He certainly is as magnificent a piece of art as I have ever seen. How Michelangelo envisioned this massive figure from a hunk of marble, then brought him out of it, I simply cannot imagine.

My companion and I walked around him slowly, reading plaques and gazing at the flawless marble. Every vein and sinew was perfect. “Masterpiece” seems so inadequate to describe it. We browsed the rest of the gallery and found our way back. After him, everything else was just mildly interesting.

Really, they could let you snap away to your heart’s content. Photos do not — could not — do the David justice. The replica standing outside in a piazza a few blocks away doesn’t do it justice. There tourists snap photos like crazy.

But not at the real thing. Guards see to that. The David must be seen in person.