Back in 1495, I asked my friend, Michelangelo, to do a piece of marble for me. Right. I suppose I should tell you I’m David. That David. The one in the Piazza della Signoria. Actually, my name is Giovanni, but Michael put my face on the sculpture, so now I’m David. Forever.
I met Michael in Florence when the two of us were fourteen. Lorenzo de Medici had taken him into his academy because he was so good with a chisel. Similarly, Niccolò Machiavelli had taken me on because I was pretty good with a pen. Let’s face it, though. Anyone who read The Prince knows Machiavelli couldn’t really write, so I wasn’t exactly on the same level as Michael. We only got tight after I flattened Pietro Torrigiano for breaking Michael’s nose. Everybody says Torri ran away to England because he was afraid of the Medici, but it was all me. I’m not bragging or anything. I’m just saying.
Anyway, about six years later there was this girl, Seraphina. Oh, my god. I can’t tell you how much I was in love with her. I couldn’t take ten steps without falling down stairs or bumping into a wall, because all I could do was think of her. Dream of her. But, Seraphina wouldn’t even look at me. I mean, what was I to a girl from the insanely rich Farnese family with ten lords and a pope to their name? Nothing, that’s what.
So, I went looking for Michael, and found him in his studio. He was filthy with stone dust, eyes bloodshot from lack of sleep as he turned a block of white marble into a man with grapes in his hair. Bacchus, I suppose.
“Do me a sculpture of her,” I said.
“A sculpture of whom?”
“Seraphina. Do her like you did Madonna of the Stairs. Sculpt her from your heart. Make her like she’s holy.”
“It’s not like that, Gio.” He shook his head and went back to carving. “I can’t do it.”
“What do you mean you can’t? You owe me for beating Torrigiano.”
All he did was hand me a piece of marble and a mallet.
“Sit,” he said. “Think of Seraphina. Dream about her and tap away. It won’t be much, but it will be yours to give her.”
“But you owe…”
“Don’t ask me to do what’s not in my heart, Gio.” He pointed his chisel at my face. “Trust me, I’ll do another piece for what you did to Torri. I already know what it will be.”
I glared at him, but sat at the end of the bench and did as I was told. When I finished my clumsy tapping on the small piece of marble, it looked like a mad dog had chewed on a bone. Worthless trash, and so distant from what Michael could have done for me. I began wishing I had hit him instead of Torrigiano. I tossed the piece onto a pile of rubble and left.
Two years have passed, and Seraphina still looks straight through me. Oh, she sees the me as David when she strolls through the Piazza, but not the me as I am. There’s hope, though. Early this morning she came to Michael’s studio with her father. Moved by so many of his pieces, she insisted on seeing the master at work. But Michael told me it was my pathetic scrap of marble she picked from the rubble. Made her father buy it. Said it spoke to her.
It makes me think about this place where we come to share our musings and creations. Masters may be welcome, but it’s nice that I can come here, too. Bring some dog-chewed bone from my soul and let it find its home in some other heart. Maybe Michael honored me by putting my face on David, but he honored me more by refusing my request. Then again, he said he forgot to tell Seraphina who really created what she pulled from the rubble. I may decide to hit him after all.