Mary Hoffman on the inspiration for David

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Mary Hoffman on the inspiration for David

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Summary: As part of her very busy blog tour, Mary Hoffman dropped by Bookbag Towers to tell us all about how she was inspired to write David, the story of the creation of the famous statue by Michelangelo.
Date: 18 July 2011

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External links: Author's website



As part of her very busy blog tour, Mary Hoffman dropped by Bookbag Towers to tell us all about how she was inspired to write David, the story of the creation of the famous statue by Michelangelo.

Mary Hoffman on the inspiration for David

My first Italian boyfriend looked like Michelangelo's David. He was nineteen, tall, with chiselled features and, being from Turin, blonde hair and blue eyes. I met him on a beach on the Italian Riviera and didn’t realise then who he looked like. Spool forward to my first university summer vacation and I am in Florence for a month, aged twenty, learning Italian in the morning and having afternoons free to roam galleries and museums.

Three and a half weeks into the four I thought I really must go and see Michelangelo’s David in the Accademia (the copy in the Piazza della Signoria I passed every day). I was nervous that it wouldn’t live up to expectations. After the Mona Lisa portrait by Leonardo, it’s probably the most famous artwork in the world. And I’d seen Mona Lisa in the Louvre when I was sixteen – a small dark brown painting almost invisible behind the visitors mobbing it.

No such problem with David. He is set magnificently at the end of a hall lined by Michelangelo’s unfinished captives pushing out of their blocks of marble. He stands under his own small dome, up on a pedestal. No one can ignore him.

I was in Florence for another month in 2003, writing Stravaganza: City of Flowers, following the same pattern of language in the morning and art in the afternoon. Outside the Accademia my Art History tutor asked me if I felt emozionata at the thought of seeing David and I honestly didn’t. He is all around you in Florence, multiplied by hundreds of tawdry little models, various bits of him plastered on aprons, tea towels, boxer shorts and postcards.

But once you are faced with the real thing, you understand why he has been so reproduced: he is just spectacularly perfect. I looked at the figure and marvelled at how Michelangelo could not only find David, as he saw him, inside a botched and flawed lump of marble but how he could release him as the figure we all know now. That’s how I feel about all my novels: that they are there already and I have to excavate them and give them life.

I think I always knew I would write about David. I don’t love him, the way I do the little Apollo-David in the Bargello or the youthful Pietà in Rome, but he is a part of my mental furniture, like Greek myths or Beatles songs. I feel as the mountaineer did about Everest, that he is just so THERE, he is a challenge. It’s hard to imagine the world before David was revealed to the Florentine public. And now it’s hard for me to remember what life was like before there was David the novel. I hope the young man who became David will feel as real to readers as he does to me.

If you'd like to catch up with Mary elsewhere on the web, you can. She has an official website and she also writes a blog. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.