IL GIGANTE by Anton Gill


Michelangelo, Florence, and the David, 1492-1504
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Disappointing account of the creation of a great work of art.

In spite, or perhaps because of, the strife and turmoil in 16th-century northern Italy, the arts, particularly the visual, flourished there to a degree not seen before or since. Florence, owing to its nascent democracy as well as its merchant class, led by the Medicis, benefited particularly from this artistic explosion and was home of, among others, Donatello, Leonardo, and Michelangelo. The latter, born into a noble but financially distressed family was discouraged from becoming a sculptor by his father who considered it beneath his station. Fortunately, he was “discovered” by the greatest Medici of all, Lorenzo the Magnificent, who took the young Michelangelo into his family and all but adopted him. Gill (Art Lover, 2002, etc.) spends most of these pages describing the turbulent events leading up to the creation of the world’s best-known statue—but his heart seems not to be in it, telling what should be an enthralling tale in lackluster and listless prose. Sloppy repetitiousness further bogs down the narrative. He twice describes the Guild of Physicians and Apothecaries, as well an administrative building known as the Bargello and combines repetition with inconsistency when he writes that Michelangelo was little influenced by the countryside or nature and pages later tells of his “willingness to copy from nature.” Nevertheless, the author follows all this up with a wonderfully written, fast-paced description of Michelangelo’s actual sculpting of the David. Successfully placing the reader at the scene, Gill at last proves an adept storyteller as well as history writer, making the lead-up all the more regrettable.

Overall, there are better choices in this crowded field.

Pub Date: July 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-312-31442-6
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2003


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