View Full Version : Deductive Reasoning

02-25-2004, 02:22 AM
Hello Everyone,

A few days ago I watched an interesting program about Michelangelo. It told me something about his methods that I had never heard before. This guy chiseled sculpture out of solid stone pieces that were huge! I am thinking of the sculpture of David. And the program said that he and the work were draped off and he had water streaming in to keep the dust down as he chiseled.

The interesting thing was that he had a small model laying in a pool of water. As time went on and he worked, the pool of water was reduced exposing more of the small model.

My supposition is that Michelangelo didn't have water raining in to keep down the dust, but that he would have used a tube with holes drilled at about an inch apart and with water dripping out, to mark a line or a plane that would match the water line on the small model. This would be a tool to scale with. It has problems though because it would not help in shaping the underside of the arms and all the profiles that are hidden from the top view. This is a real problem when the piece is about 18' tall and who knows how many tons.

Just thinking about, and guessing, how he did it.



Any thoughts?

[This message has been edited by SJorgensen (edited 02-28-2004).]

02-25-2004, 03:02 AM
In the same museum that holds David there are several massive pieces of his that were never finished and they are in the roughed out stage. Pretty impressive work even with rough chipped surfaces showing all the chisel marks. All the proportions are right in the very rough condition.

02-25-2004, 03:59 AM
Hi Cass,

Thanks for your reply,

Have you seen these pieces of work yourself? and if you did were you impressed with their size and scale? The only models that I have seen are at Cesaers palace in Las Vegas. (And some of those MOVE!)
I wonder how a man in that day could accomplish what he did. Beyond the mechanical challenges that he must have faced, he must have had really powerful financial backing.


02-25-2004, 04:04 AM
Quote from here:


"The four unfinished slaves reveal eloquently Michelangelo's sculptural process: the figure would be outlined on the front of the marble block and then Michelangelo would work steadily inwards from this one side, in his own words 'liberating the figure imprisoned in the marble'. As the more projecting parts were reached so they were brought to a fairly finished state with those parts further back still only rough-hewn: thus the figures of these slaves literally appear to be struggling to be free."

However, with few exceptions he did not do all the work himself. Much of it was done by assistants under his supervision.

02-25-2004, 04:07 AM
Thanks Evan,

As usual (for you) that information is exactly what I was interested in. Extremely on point.

Thanks so much,


02-25-2004, 04:11 AM
Find a copy of Irving Stone's biography "The Agony and the Ecstasy", wonderfully written and mind-blowing story of Michelangelo's life and work. Brought to life.

He took a hard-core approach to realism in his work. Back then nobody knew how to sculpt (or draw) life-like rippling muscles and such. His solution was to spend nights cutting apart cadavers to learn how people are put together.


02-25-2004, 04:34 AM
You're welcome Spence. Some years ago the city of Vancouver brought in about ten world class stone sculptors and gave them huge blocks of granite or limestone to do wahtever they wanted. They were set up in a park all summer for anyone to watch as they worked. I had an opportunity to see them at work a few times and it was facinating to see how different people approached the work. Some with big diamond saws and air hammers and some with mallets and star drills. The finished sculptures were left on display for some time. Very interesting, I've always been tempted to try it.

02-25-2004, 10:10 AM
Here in Ottawa we have a yearly festival called winterlude. The best part is watching and seeing the ice sculptures. Nothing is more impressive then watching one group with a chain saw make a beautiful dove or another group weld blocks of ice together with water to repair a mistake or add on to the sculpture. Unbeleivable what some people can do

Rob http://bbs.homeshopmachinist.net//smile.gif

02-25-2004, 10:16 AM
Part of the apprenticeship for artists was to draw the human form every day for hours.Until it was second nature.
Not only aspiring doctors attended anatomy lessons , but artists too, in those days.

His genious wasn't in the fact he could sculpt large subjects, but that everything he sculpted seemed alive, as if he caught his subject in just a moment in time.

IMO his 'Pieta"(?) is a perfect example of this. even in subdued light it seems to glow.

02-25-2004, 11:06 AM
Wasn't he the one whos said the world would have paid any price he asked,if only he had asked?

02-25-2004, 11:43 AM
I spent about 30 minutes looking at David alone after seeing loads of other scupture in Florence. No photo can do it justice. My family finally dragged me away. The note from Evan is on a card near the other unfinished works that are in the same display down the hall. I think they are roughed out all over with no polished parts but there are others that do have a finished polished arm and back and I believe there was a note that said they though he did that on purpose to illustrate the idea of "freeing the image from the stone". There is scupture all over Italy to the extent that after a few weeks of wandering around you get pretty dizzy. All of it is quality and craftsmanship that is out of my normal experience. I suppose the bad stuff gets used for roads over the hundreds of years. I took life drawing courses as a diversion while I was in engineering school and spent many hours drawing the human form under pressure of competing for grades with serious art students. Finally stopped when it seemed to be taking too much time from engineering studies. Every serious artist and sculptor should be required to go to Italy. Easy to understand how they come up with such great looking clothes and cars when they grow up with all that stuff in every town to some extent. Design, perspective, architecture are kind of a way of life. Food is good too and wine really is cheaper than water. (All bottled out of the tap is risky.)

02-25-2004, 01:16 PM

I haven't been to Italy, it is on the list. We did spend quite a bit of time in the cathedrals of Germany. Spectacular! I studied for a while at the College of Arts and Crafts in Berkeley, including life drawing classes. The unique aroma and light in a art studio, the smell of oils and canvas with a trace of mustiness and the bright even north light is one of my favorite sensory experiences.

[This message has been edited by Evan (edited 02-26-2004).]

02-25-2004, 11:15 PM
Speaking of Italy,what ever happend to our friend Knuclehead?

02-27-2004, 01:32 PM
One of Michaelangelo's drinking buddies was a famous metalworker, the jeweler and (bronze) sculptor Benvenuto Cellini. Cellini's _Autobiography_ is a great read - lots of stuff about making his famous works, dealing with royal & papal customers, and general & specific hell-raising. Italy at that time was a real wild west kind of scene, illustrated, for instance, by the story about how he "accidentally" shot a guy right between the eyes. Cellini also wrote the _Treatise_On_Goldsmithing_And_Sculpture_, probably the first such instructional book, still in print and still useful (at least in part) today.

02-28-2004, 01:01 AM
Thanks guys and thanks BillB,

If I live 100 years I will never learn what you know. I enjoy learning those elements that I can from you, that aren't in the books. Great clues to interesting history. I love it.

Thanks again,


[This message has been edited by SJorgensen (edited 02-28-2004).]