“Sir, why are you knocking on the stone?” asked a girl. “That rock is not just a stone. There’s an angel inside. I’m trying to wake it up,” said Michelangelo. This is an excerpt from Chris Widener’s “The Angel Inside.”
“The Angel Inside” is a book that tells the story of how 16th-century artist Michelangelo created masterpieces of his time. Michelangelo’s answer to the girl’s question appears simple and innocent. At the same time, it suggests how we should view life and art.
Michelangelo saw something that others neglected to see in a stone. He decided to chip away at the parts that did not belong to the angel to awaken the angel sleeping inside the rock. He repeatedly worked away to express the lucent, angel-like skin. He spent most of his life covered in stone dust and did all he could to produce the art he dreamed of. Such passion could be likened to nobility. He was a sculptor, but above all, he had insights unlike anyone else.
What is the essence of art? For what am I living as an artist? It is a simple question but difficult to answer.
Several years ago, I encountered a nude stone sculpture of a man in Florence, Italy. I recall how excited I felt back then. The sculpture was almost five meters tall and gave a strong aura. The sculpture was Michelangelo’s David.
Just as he saw the angel in the rock, Michelangelo also saw David. He viewed things in a manner that was different from others, gave them special meaning, and created something new. I ask myself again. What is the essence of art? Michelangelo gives the answer from the book and the museum in Florence.