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Admiring the art of the Italian Renaissance - Curt Yeomans

You can't help but stare, as you walk into the hallway containing the sculptures at the Galleria dell'Accademia, in Florence, Italy.

As you enter the hallway, there is a row of four unfinished sculptures by Michelangelo Buonarroti to your right, and another row of four unfinished sculptures, also by Michelangelo, on your left.

Some of these statues look like people struggling to break free of mud, because of the fact that they are only partially cut from the stone.

But, it is the completed marble sculpture at the end of the hallway that then catches your attention, and refuses to let go.

A crowd is gathered around its base, admiring it from all sides. Your tour guide tells you it is so well-respected -- by art aficionados and average Joe's, for the same reason -- that it is looked at as pure perfection.

As you stare at it, you feel every bit of breath in you suddenly ripped away, as you stare in awe of this piece of work. It is unlike anything you have ever seen before, or will likely ever see again.

It is "David." Yes, I mean the original edition, the one done by Michelangelo, himself.

If there is one thing that can be said for the pieces of artwork that came out of the Renaissance, it is that they still know how to impress a person after hundreds of years.

While Rome is nice and all, it's shtick is ancient, Roman ruins. It's best art is on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and you can't even legally photograph it (Not that I admit to knowing from experience, but God help you, if the guards catch you trying.)

Rome is not exactly the art capital of Italy. That title arguably belongs to Florence, one of the cradles of the Renaissance.

In one city alone, you can find the original "David," and its smaller replica in nearby Piazza della Signoria; Filippo Brunelleschi's red-brick dome on top of the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (also known as just the "Duomo"); Sandro Botticelli's painting, the "Birth of Venus," and the tombs of the scientist Galileo Galilei, and political strategist Niccolo Machiavelli.

There truly is nothing to compare. Sure, I've seen Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," in person, but that is one piece in the Louvre, and it's pretty much off by itself. In Florence, the art is everywhere, like the many sculptures that are located in the city's multiple piazzas. You really get a sense of what the Renaissance was all about by going there.

The Renaissance is a great name for this particular period of art, because the word means "the rebirth." If you look at art from this time period, and compare it to art from the centuries immediately preceding it, in a sense, art was truly reborn during the Renaissance.

Art went from the rather plain, somewhat uninviting images of people drawn with a lot of straight lines, to enticing, youthful images, like a naked Venus coming out of a clamshell, while angels blow wind through her hair.

If you bring your children, though, be careful about which statues they see. You really don't want to have to explain to little Johnny, or Jane, why Giambologna's "The Rape of the Sabine Women" shows a woman twisting away from a man in what appears to be great pain. That would be a little too much education for the wee little ones.

Still, you can't truly admire the splendor of any of it unless you actually see it in person.

Curt Yeomans covers education for the Clayton News Daily. He can be reached at (770) 478-5753, ext. 247, or via e-mail at cyeomans@news-daily.com.