Monday, December 17, 2012

Michelangelo's "David-Apollo" at the National Gallery of Art

On Friday I had the privilege of seeing Michelangelo’s sculpture ”David-Apollo” (1530) at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.  This beautiful marble sculpture is on loan from the Museo Nazionale del Bargello, in Florence, to celebrate 2013, the Year of Italian Culture.  The name of the sculpture alludes to the conflicting stories that the figure is David, slayer of Goliath or Apollo, god of light and sun.

                                 Michelangelo's "David-Apollo", marble, 1530.

                                       Michelangelo's "David-Apollo" Detail

Michelangelo (1474-1564) was a master of the High Renaissance and best known for his colossal masterpiece “David” (1501-1504) which dominates the Galleria dell’ Accademia in Florence. Michelangelo is considered to be one of the greatest artists of all time.  His creations in painting, sculpture, architecture and drawing are among the greatest masterpieces of Western art.

                                  Michelangelo's "David", marble, 1501-1504

While “David” is a large, highly polished piece the “David-Apollo” is an unfinished, smaller than life size sculpture.  This unfinished quality allows the viewer insight into Michelangelo’s process.  According to the National Gallery of Art,  Michelangelo used a point chisel to rough out the forms and a claw chisel to refine the figure.  The roughened areas formed with the point chisel can be seen on the back of the figure and the tree stump.  This juxtaposition of the refined and roughened marble later inspired 19th century French artist Auguste Rodin.  Below is one of Rodin’s sculptures to demonstrating this technique.

                                    Auguste Rodin, "Galatea", marble, 1889

While Michelangelo posed his “David” in a position of contrapposto, “David-Apollo” displays a twisting pose called serpentinata. 

I highly recommend a visit to the National Gallery Art before March 3, 21013 when “David-Apollo” returns to Florence.


  1. Just a quick noteI wound up going with a dark black/brown counter. I will post photos in a later update.
    michelangelo marble

  2. Nice article and great knowledge about michealangelo marble. I love this story and enjoy with your words!