Michelangelo Sculpture Stumps the Experts

WASHINGTON — Michelangelo is known worldwide as the great Italian Renaissance sculptor.  Now, one of his more intriguing works is on loan to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, which has no other Michelangelo in its collection.  

The white marble sculpture is graceful with curves.  One knee is bent and the torso is twisted into what the Italians call “serpentinata” or Serpentine.  Michelangelo’s mastery of sculpture makes the pose looks natural, fluid and easy.  But that is not the case when gallery visitors try to mimic it.  

Like many Michelangelos the sculpture appears unfinished.  Andrew Cary was mesmerized by the chisel marks.

“I am struck by the contrast between the harsh surface of the stone and the fleshy parts of the sculpture that just look soft somehow, even though it is stone," he said. 

Mary Beth Vaughn stared at its natural grace. “I think he is beautiful," she said. 

But no one knows who "he" really is.  The clue is in the rear, in a rough chiseled rectangular form on the subject’s back.  Was it to be the sling that David used to kill Goliath?  Or a quiver of arrows for the sun god Apollo?  

Darcey Kuhn just returned from a two-week vacation in Italy.

“I think it Is more like David, in my opinion, having seen a lot of Apollos.  It was not just Michelangelo Apollos," she said. 

David-Apollo has visited the United States before.  Italian Ambassador Claudio Bisogniero explains the statue was at the National Gallery of Art in 1949 during the inauguration of President Harry S. Truman.  

"It was meant to thank the United States for the great support during the war, but also after the war, in the rebuilding of Italy after the destruction of that time," he said. 

Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi marked the David-Apollo’s return to Washington, and with it the start of the Year of Italian Culture in the United States.

"In 1949, almost 800,000 visitors enjoyed Michelangelo's unforgettable marble masterpiece.  I know that, over the next few months, we will certainly reach that number," he said. 

The David-Apollo stands in a round room by itself.  Gallery visitors circle the sculpture, inspecting it from all sides, appreciating Michelangelo's skill.  But how many know his last name?

She is right.  Michelangelo Buonarroti created the David-Apollo.  It stays in Washington, DC, until March. 

VOA News