Recently, I was a guest on the popular podcast, The Fatal Charm of Italy hosted by Rick Zullo. His conversations with people who are experts of Italian culture from language, to food, to history, to art, to politics embody what makes Italy so endlessly captivating!
It was a delight to chat with Rick, another Italy lover who shares my passion for la bella Italia, and also the bond of growing up in an Italian-American family, listening to stories around the dinner table about the struggles of our immigrant ancestors. We discussed several topics near and dear to my heart including our family stories, Puccini’s operatic masterpieces, the marble quarries of Carrara and the joys of the Italian table.
I particularly enjoyed our discussion about the art of sculpture, by the hand of the Divine Michelangelo.
Because my ancestors were marble carvers from Carrara, I have spent a lot of time following Michelangelo around in the city and its famous marble mines that look like snow covered mountains.
Michelangelo visited Carrara several times to personally select his perfect blocks of marble, most notably for The Pietá, but also for forty life-size sculptures commissioned by Pope Julius for his tomb. A massive project, it would have surpassed Michelangelo’s lifetime, but it had many false starts and was never completed.
Seven of them can be seen today. The most famous and the only one completed, is the Moses which is located in Rome’s San Pietro in Vincoli church.
The other six, known as The Prisoners or The Slaves, are all unfinished. Four of them are in the Accademia in Florence (the other two, at the Louvre in Paris). They are all non-finito and not because the project did not go forward.
Rick and I discussed Michelangelo’s penchant for leaving works only partially formed. These powerful sculptures are of humans emerging from the marble and there are several theories around the psychology of Michelangelo’s artistic expression.
He famously said, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free” and “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
Michelangelo was the only sculptor who did not create perfect models first. Because he could “see” the figure trapped inside the stone, he went confidently into it with his chisel.
The idea of releasing the sculpture from the marble, chiseling away what is unnecessary, is why, I believe, Michelangelo’s works resonate so strongly. Isn’t all emotional and spiritual growth a journey of releasing and letting go of what holds us back in life?
I find the writing process much like this. It is often the removing of words that makes what remains on the page so powerful.
When I bring people with me to Tuscany, we begin by viewing and learning about these masterpieces and then we go up to the stunning quarries to the place where the Artist found his marble. It changes how people see sculpture because the journey of the stone is just as profound as the journey of the art.
I invite you to pour a glass of wine, sit back and eavesdrop on our conversation.
Michaelangelo: “I saw the angel in the marble, and I carved until I set him free.” #Italy #art #ladolcevita
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