Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Monday, 7 November 2011

A gilded youth

One of the courses I am teaching this term is on art and patronage during the Renaissance, and as part of my background reading in preparation I read Christopher Hibbert's The Medici - as always with Hibbert it is a very readable presentation of his topic.

From this I learned, among many other things, that Michelangelo's statue of David of 1501-04, originally had the hair and the sling gilded, which somewhat changes the standard impression of the sculpture that we have. It has become such an immediately recognizable image, that imagining it looking in any way different, other than in jest, seems slightly odd. I can imagine that in its ioriginal location and so gilded it would have been even more striking, especially to contemporaries when it was first installed in 1504.



Image: www.artchive.com

Michelangelo's figure is a serious, purposeful young man. David as depicted in marble, and more famously in bronze, by Donatello is more ambiguous - in the case of the bronze figure he is arguably the most depraved young man in western art. With young men like that on the streets of Florence it is little wonder that the city got the reputation it had for same-sex attraction...

There is an interesting online article about that aspect of the culture which produced Donatello's bronze of David here.

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