In the old Piazza at Florence a statue of David stands, 'Tis the masterful work of Michael Angelo's marvellous art, Yet a failure nevertheless; for it came to his master's hands, Not a virgin block intact, but already rough-hewn in part.
And what Mino da Fiesole did to it, Angelo could not undo.
So the work was but half his own.It is finish'd, yet incomplete.
As that statue to Michael Angelo hundreds of years ago,
So are you at this moment to me : an achievement, and yet a defeat!
Tis that others have been before us, of whose touch you retain the trace. You are half my work, half theirs, thro' your spirit and flesh disperst Is the mark of a love not mine, that my own love cannot efface, or you were not virgin marble when you came to my hands at first.
It is one of the many changes which annoy those who knew Florence in its old days, that the David has been removed from the place which Michael Angelo chose for it. But, once it was found necessary to have a hideous wooden shed over this statue to protect it from the weather, it really was much better to put it indoors, and the David gives immense dignity to the noble hall in the Belle Arti, where it now stands in a splendid light.
About the modern alterations in Florence, a friend of mine, who had not been there for years, writes : 'I go to the galleries and churches and find changes everywhere. Like all old folk, I am disposed to say, "Changes for the worse" ; but this would be unreasonable - some are for the better. The great, and to me distressing, change is in the aspect of the city, the loss of its tall mediaeval walls and the "improvement" (?) of its chief streets, which now have horrid shop-fronts. The place is no longer in sympathy with the great edifices which stand as if they had come to call! As to the galleries, I suppose I must admit improvement, though the character of the Medici collections is gone, except in the Tribuna, which has been mercifully spared in spite of its very bad light. I had some difficulty in finding the Madonna del Calamajo, and that famous one of Lippi with the naughty boy angel. But when I did find them I confessed that I had for the first time seen them in a good light, and in a bad light it is not seeing at all. ... I am angry with the Italian Government for transporting statues, &c, and thus taking their unique character from the streets of Florence. Everything is sacrificed to the idea of a "Museo" with catalogues and numbers and staring foreigners ! The object of these works is lost and ignored when thus removed, and modern horrors of poor Garibaldi who was picturesque, and V. Emmanuel, and above all that stout, podgy Manin, are everywhere. If artistic merit meant other merit, old Cosimo would beat all these moderns as he sits on his bronze horse, mercifully not yet inside a Museo. But two things are great gain. One is the superb portraits of the Portinari family in Hugo Van der Goes' great "Adoration." Sina Folco got it done ; it has been in the Spedale and hardly two years in the gallery. The other gain is the fine Botticelli of "Spring" which I never saw properly long ago.It was dirty, hung high and in an impossible light.'