I said earlier that the only things I wanted to get out of my trip to Italy were to see Michelangelo's David and, well, I forget what the other thing was. I was to some extent joking, of course, but for the most part, not really. I've wanted to see David for years, and much of what we were planning to do in Florence was planned around when we could get reservations for tickets to the gallery at the Accademia. (That's the Accademia in Florence as opposed to the Accademia in Venice: entirely different experiences, but both worth doing.) Naturally, when you make something such a central part of your trip and imbue it with such great importance, you are setting yourself up for tremendous disappointment. And I was not without trepidation as I entered the Accademia earlier today. There are, after all, copies of David all over the place, including one not many blocks from the Accademia and another at the Piazalle Michelangelo, on a hill above Florence, near San Minano, and the copies are nice, but they're not all that.
After a few minutes browsing through some renaissance paintings and looking at renaissance musical instruments, I turned a corner, and there, perhaps thirty meters away, was David. And, well, never have I been less disappointed.
This would be one of those experiences that you can't put into words. Let me just say that I spent half an hour staring at David from many different angles, and then I went through the rest of the museum (which is not large) and came back to spend another forty-five minutes staring at him. There is not an inch of him that does not command your attention. He is miraculous (as evidenced by the fact that despite the strict no photography policy and the multiple guards running around shouting "No photo!" three images of David somehow ended up on my camera: a miracle!).
Reverence might be the only appropriate response here, and I was certainly reverent while I was in the Accademia (By the way, there are another half dozen Annunciations in the Florence Accademia, and in almost all of them, Mary -- and usually Gabriel -- looks reverent. It is a huge improvement over bored.), but if we here at The Neighbors Will Hear stand for anything it's that the distance between the sublime and the ridiculous is infinitesimally small: in fact, they're two sides of the same coin. Can we please get past the notion that life and the people who live it are simple and one dimensional? You can be the sort of person who can be brought to tears by the beauty of a sculpture and still be a low-maintenance guy who chases ass at every opportunity. There's no yin without yang, readers. So let's talk about some of the more profane aspects of the world's greatest sculpture. David's ass is not all that. I mean, it's an okay ass, but every other bit of him is beautiful beyond words. The ass? Not bubble, not eve perky. And David was, after all, a shepherd, constantly climbing the hills and chasing off mountain lions and what not: he'd have a great ass. B&c disagreed with my assessment and said that it was a perfectly nice ass, but b&c is a bottom and he don't know from ass. I saw a large number of Michelangelo sculptures today, and two things were clear: a) he preferred men, and b) he was a muscle-worshipping bottom.
For reasons that are, I suppose obvious, but are still all wrong, much of the interest in David is all about the dick. Witness this example of a mens wear item that is common in souvenir shops both in Florence and in Venice. You can also get this on an apron, in which case you get a bit more of David's torso, but the focus is clearly on the dick. When I first saw the boxer shorts, b&c asked whether I wanted a pair, and I said, "a) if you're down to your boxer shorts, somebody's going to see your dick pretty soon anyway, and b) I don't want anybody thinking my dick is too small." The Italians, not surprisingly, have anticipated my second objection, and you can also find pairs of the shorts with XXL printed on the front and with the dick in question greatly enhanced. It was something that even I blushed to take a picture of, but only because messing with David seems tacky. [This picture has nothing whatsoever to do with the rest of this post or with David. These turtles support the iron bars on the outside of the large windows on the ground floor of the school of philosophy and letters at the local university. They symbolize your slow progress in the world if you get a liberal arts degree, I suppose. Also, I think they're cool.]
Here's one of the copies of David. It lacks much of the original's vitality, but it mostly copies the giant scale of the hands. David's hands are incredibly large in proportion to his body. They're nearly twice as big as they should be. My supposition is that Michelangelo was making a comment about size queens, saying, in effect, "Big hands don't guarantee a big endowment, people!" I'm guessing that Michelangelo was trying to cover up certain inadequacies of his own, though since he was so obviously a bottom, I can't imagine why he cared. I'm sure he went to his grave still proclaiming his versatility, though. As if, Mikey. I'm pretty sure that the Italian commercial emphasis on dick is a reflection of what they expect from American tourists. Europeans generally are neither titillated nor scandalized by nudity: it's mostly Americans who have a prurient interest in the nakedness of sculpture. David does have a pretty cock, but so much of him is even more beautiful. Sit in front of him for half an hour and see how little time you spend staring at his cock, as compared to his strong, veined hands, his powerful feet, his graceful calves, or that intriguing indentation right beneath the front of his shoulder. But the Italians are very clued into commercial opportunity. I didn't get a pair of the David boxers or a David apron (it would make a good gift for someone, but I can't think who), but I did pick up this small calendar.
I was too amused by the notion of a "Dicks in Art" calendar not to pick it up. (Other things I find too amusing to resist include a certain Italian game show -- Heredita, I think it's called -- that I really can't understand, but that's too entertaining to turn off. It runs from 7 to 8, which is generally right after horizontal quality time and right before dinner.) I wish that it were the sort of thing that you could find at public souvenir stands in the U.S., but can you imagine the ruckus that would get kicked up if there were penis-bearing aprons on street corners in Washington, DC? I think it would make Michelangelo weep, though I suspect that the existence of the Internet and the Craigslist M4M ads would more than make up for it.