Developing David

Florence TourOn September 8, 1504, in Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Michelangelo unveiled one of the most recognizable contributions to the Italian Renaissance, David. Though the 17 foot statue took three years for Michelangelo to complete, its conception began well before the famed painter and sculptor began working on it.

In the 15th century, overseers of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, or the Florence Duomo, set forth a plan to commission a series of artists to sculpt representations of notable figures of the Old Testament, intended to decorate the exterior of the Duomo. Donatello lent his talents to sculpt Joshua, and his contemporary and probable student, Agostino di Duccio, later produced an interpretation of Hercules to complement the Duomo. In 1464, Agostino was once again selected to provide another sculpture, this time of David, the biblical hero and king who defeated Goliath. Agostino was provided with a 19 foot slab of marble, and after three years and minimal progress, the artist abandoned the project, unfinished. Ten years later, Antonio Rossellino began a short-lived attempt at completing the sculpture, but he was quickly decommissioned.

The slab of marble was neglected, and left exposed to the elements for over 25 years, until the council of overseers determined that David must be completed, artfully and successfully. They elected 26 year-old, Michelangelo, for the task and on September 13, 1501, the young artist officially got to work.

Travel Italy, Travel Florence

In early 1504, when the statue was nearing completion, it became obvious to Florentine officials that it would impossible to place the 17 foot high, 6 ton sculpture anywhere on the buttresses of the Duomo. Another committee formed to decide the proper place in Florence to feature David. After considering nine locations throughout the city, the committee ultimately decided that David would rest in the Palazzo della Signora (modern-day Palazzo Vecchio). After a four day, half-mile procession, David was eventually displayed in the Palazzo della Signora, on September 8. The sculpture remained in the public plaza until 1873 when it was moved to Galleria dell’Accademia, where it could be better protected from natural wear.

The Duomo’s overseers never saw a true fruition of their plan to adorn the Duomo with 12 figures of the Old Testament. However, after almost a century in the making, the concept ultimately yielded one of the finest and most recognized pieces of art to come out of the Italian Renaissance, Michelangelo’s 17 foot tall, marble sculpture of David.

Join VBT on our Tuscan Coast or Tuscan Hill Towns by Bike vacations and experience one of Michelangelo’s most celebrated works of art for yourself.

Gerry’s Journal: Our 40th Anniversary President’s Tour in Hungary & Slovakia

Guests have recently embarked on our 2011 President’s Tour to Hungary & Slovakia: The Best of the Danube. Travelers have been joined by special guests, Gregg Marston, VBT President, and John Freidin, VBT’s founder. Additionally, the group will be traveling with husband and wife, and two of VBT’s longest running associates, Gerry Slager and Janet Chill. Gerry has been kind enough to take some notes along the way, and to provide us with some insights into the trip. Part 1 of his experience is below.

My wife, Janet, and I have left our Vermont home to begin our VBT trip to Hungary & Slovakia: The Best of the Danube. It’s a gift given to us by VBT President, Gregg Marston, for our combined years of service to VBT—60 years total. We decided as long as we were going to travel that far from home, we would take advantage of the Pre- trip extension to Bratislava and the Post- trip extension, to stay longer in Budapest.

VBT arranged everything for us as usual, just like they do for all their guests. We had no worries. After reading the travel documents, sent to us by VBT, we set of for the airport on Friday afternoon. Everything went smoothly with our connecting flights and when we arrived in Vienna, our VBT representative was there waiting to take us to our first hotel on our Pre- Trip extension to Bratislava. All I can say is, “WOW!” about the Hotel Arcadia and the location is fantastic: right in the center of old town. We learned that it was the first 5 star hotel built in Bratislava, and it shows.

We happened to arrive in Bratislava in the midst of a National Folk Festival and crafts show. On just our first night in Slovakia, we were able to stay up and see a fabulous outdoor Folk Music and dance performance, with participants in their native costumes. With all our needs met for an excellent first day of travel, we found some dark beer and we went to sleep in our beautiful room.

Day Two of our vacation began after a great night sleep and a very satisfying buffet breakfast of yogurt, fresh fruits, cereals, meats and cheeses, eggs, pastries and excellent coffee! Janet and I met a few more folks from the tour and then we started out to explore more of the Bratislava Crafts and Folk Art Festival which was just minutes from our hotel.

Words can’t come close to explaining the wonderful crafts we saw in addition to the many demonstrations performed by the artists themselves. We saw everything from blacksmiths, pottery, and decorative eggs to woodworking, instrument making, leatherworking, jewelry-making, and weaving. We even saw an artist crafting bobbin lace. Janet spent some time learning about the process from the local artisan.

While exploring another part of the old city we stumbled upon a Thai massage studio which we could not resist. After a light dinner and our favorite local beer, Zlaty Bazant Dark, we watched another colorful performance by regional singers and dancers in traditional dress. To finish my day I relaxed in the Jacuzzi in the hotel’s Spa. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.

Day three began a bit ambiguously, with no specific plans in mind. After meeting a few fellow travelers this morning at breakfast, we decided to join them for a 3 hour barge trip on the Danube River to the Castle Devin. It left at 10 am and returned at 1 pm, so the timing was perfect to have lunch and still have time to explore the last of the old city.

On the way back to the hotel, we met a very interesting local who pointed out the house that the henchmen from centuries ago lived in. Also, we saw another dance and musical performance which was heavily influenced by Roma culture.

Later that evening, at Gregg’s welcome reception, we met the rest of the group that we will be traveling with. It was great fun meeting each other and finding out how many times we all have traveled with VBT. Guests’ experiences ranged from a couple of vacations to Frank, who has traveled with VBT 20 times. In fact, I have been his leader three times in the past and Janet and I both had him as a guest in Holland almost 20 years ago! It’s always good to see old friends.

After a glass of wine and few toasts from Gregg, we were introduced to John Freidin. John founded VBT back in 1971, and owned it for 12 years. His presence, along with Gregg’s, on this 40th Anniversary President’s tour made it even more of a special vacation. After all, John’s the reason that I began at VBT, and Gregg is one of the reasons that I’ve stayed these many years.