I read last week that the famous bronze David by Donatello has finally been finished after an 18 month restoration involving the use of lasers normally employed to treat glaucoma. A normal 'mechanical' restoration had not been possible when an x-ray in 2006 discovered the presence of precious and delicate gold leaf on parts of the statue.
The forward-thinking curators of the Bargello museum decided that it would be interesting for the public to be able to see the work in progress and so the whole thing has been on show in the museum as it progressed. I'm not suggesting that the watchful eyes of the public had anything to do with it, but the restoration finished exactly on time, and the resulting statue is now back on display in it's full glory.
I had been to see it many times previously and it is a wonderful piece of work but, many years ago, when it was kept at the Ufizzi, it had been covered with a mixture of oil, wax and pigment to make it look consistent with all the other dark bronzes in their collection. Now that this grimy layer has been carefully removed, it has become clear that David had been intended to be in a light, polished bronze. Now, back to it's former glory, it takes your breath away.
As the director of the Bargello put it, “he is incomparably more beautiful now than ever before, even though it would seem impossible”. I know it's her museum, but she's right.
And maybe I shouldn't grumble, especially given the wonderful other works of art available at this seminal museum for just 4 euros, but I do have a couple of slight gripes.
The museum has tried something new in terms of a restoration. Rather than turning David back into what he would have looked like by replacing the lost gold leaf it has, instead, recreated a second version standing just behind the original. It has been made to appear new, as the Medici would have wanted to see it, in the courtyard of their palace a stone's throw from the Duomo in Florence. There is bright, shiny gold leaf all over David's hair and sandals and all over Goliath's helmet. It is also on a rather elaborate plinth, a little higher than the original, probably at the height it was supposed to be.
I can see what they are trying to do, the intention is to inform and to educate, but I really wish it wasn't there. The visual impact of the original David is enough. You walk into this wonderful, majestic room on the first floor of the museum and are drawn straight to it, 580 years old and perfect. Now, instead, there is a visual confusion of the two and other visitors to the museum were asking each other in embarassed whispers which was the real one!
My other gripe is about photography. It's an old chestnut, but it does upset me when, in a museum of bronze and marble sculpture which cannot possible be damaged by photographs, you are told off for trying. I get particularly annoyed as seeing and appreciating sculpture is all about going around it, seeing the forms and shapes from all it's angles, and choosing your own favourite, not just the one the postcard photo guy in 1965 thought you should have.
That's why I have nothing of the beautiful new David, just a couple of shots of the ceilings. taken whilst pretending to put my lens cap back on...
Anyway, I suppose you're just going to have to take my word for it and put it on your list of must-sees the next time you're in Florence. It's worth every cent.
The stupidest thing I did today;
Got caught (and told off) trying to take a photograph of a statue.