Wednesday, 20 February 2013

check the details, Michelangelo

A parcel arrived today, as exciting as  getting a present - books I'd ordered from Better World Books - they sell donated books, mostly second hand, postage is included in the low price and as their slogan explains they also donate books to increase literacy .... You buy, we donate - Book for Book.   

Big R (hubby) brings the parcel in from the mailbox. He grabs his book and scuttles away.  I look at the pictures in the patchwork book and then turn to the one I had been waiting to read,  on personality types.  A little disappointed that the writing is a bit wordy, concepts repeated as if talking to a six year old, but I can get used to that, and I have to learn to accept all writing styles, I tell myself.  But, very disappointed when incorrect information is presented to explain one of those concepts.  This really annoys me. Yes, we all remember bits of information we've picked up along the way but please check you've got it right before publishing it in a book.   I've noticed that as I get older my ability to recall something I've read is not as good as it once was. You need to double check, even if you think you're sure.  I've even found a strong memories of something I have done can be wrong at times too ...  while I'm usually pretty good at remembering, being very visual I can often take myself back in my mind to 'see' things again, but there have been times when memory failed me or played tricks ...  like the day I returned the floor fan that only worked for half an hour.  I took it back to Big W.  I had a clear memory of buying it there a few weeks before - I was positive. But I had lost the receipt .... 

'It's not in the system, we don't sell these', said the lady on the returns counter, staring at her computer. 
Trying to appear that I knew what I was talking about I declared that I had a very good memory and I definitely bought it there. 
'But it's not even our brand!' she said.  'I think you bought this from Woollies'.

And, yes I had - it all came back to me - the fans on sale, only a few left, me pushing aside the crumpled box covered in sticky tape to pull the box in good condition from the top shelf .... yes, I did buy it at Woollies.  Oh dear.  They were very nice and gave me my money back.

But, back to the book.  I think it's okay that I quote a short passage while not giving the author's name.   The paragraph is titled;  It's What's Underneath That Counts.

When Michelangelo was ready to carve the statue of David, he spent a long time in selecting the marble, for he knew the quality of the raw material would determine the beauty of the finished product. He knew he could change the shape of the stone, but he couldn't transform the basic ingredient. Every masterpiece he made was unique, for even if he had wanted to , he would not have been able to find a duplicate piece of marble. Similar, but not the same.

This all sounds very nice and I see what she is doing, talking about temperament, getting to know the real you underneath etc etc.  She has been creative in using this example to show quality underneath but it would have been wise to double check the story because anyone who has read about Michelangelo, or who enjoys art documentaries on TV, or is interested in art history would know, as I did, and as Big R did, that Michelangelo did not choose the marble for the statue of David!

The true story is almost as famous as the statue.  Google will throw up a lot more details, but ...  long before Michelangelo was even involved, some very influential people - Overseers of the Office of Works of the Duomo (Operai), made plans for a series of twelve large Old Testament sculptures for the buttresses of the cathedral of Santa Maria Del Fiore.  This was in Florence.  So, in 1410 they had a famous sculptor, Donatello (not the ninja turtle), create the figure of Joshua in terracotta.  

Then in 1463 they ordered a  statue of Hercules, (I didn't know he was an old testament character) from a Florentine sculptor Agostino di Duccio - though it's assumed that he was working under Donatello. The following year, 1464,  they ordered another sculpture from Agostino, this one was to be David.

Now, this part is important - they provided a block of marble -  they had it brought down from the alps in northern Tuscany, at great expense - so Agostino didn't even choose it.  He started work on the legs and for no reason that is remembered, just stopped.  Then Donatello died in 1466 and the block of marble sat around for ten years before the sculptor, Antonio Rossellino, was commissioned to finish it. But, he was fired and the huge block of marble sat in the yard of the cathedral workshop for 25 more years.

A block of marble from Tuscany - not the original
Finally they looked for another sculptor - and Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonaroti Simoni, known as Michelangelo, a sculptor, painter, architect, poet and engineer won the commission. He was only 26 years old - the block of marble had been quarried and transported to Florence before he was even born - so he didn't choose the block of marble.
After thinking about the design for a few weeks he started carving on Monday, 13 September, 1501 and worked until 25 January, 1504.  Both Michangelo and the statue of David had further adventures but this is where we stop for now.

As the coming together of Michelangelo and the David marble is such a BIG story, spanning over 35 years and involving some famous names and so well known by so many people, you'd wonder how someone could get it so wrong.    Why use it at all?  And, if you must, why not check that you have the facts? And once you had used it, why did no one tell you it was incorrect?  Is it too late for me to do that - it's an old book, printed in 2000 but the original copyright is 1986.
By the time I'd reached Woollies with my fan I had remembered buying it and also remembered buying our similar style but better quality older fan in Big W two years before! - time just goes so fast these days. But, before I remembered. I was on my way to check that what I had been told was correct and that what I remembered was not.... just in case.  So, this is good advice indeed.

And yes, my returning the little squat floor fan is not really a good example to use for getting the details of the marble wrong but then, I don't agree with using a made up scenario involving a well known artist is a good example of the possible quality of our temperament underneath our personality - and that is my point.


Thank you for your interest in my blog.