The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone

The Agony and the Ecstasy

“He liked what he saw; took a piece of charcoal and drew the head and beard of an old man on the marble.  Then he pulled up a bench, straddled the block, gripping it with both knees, picked up a hammer and chisel.  His body settled down with a soughing movement.  Tensions within him fell away with each falling chip.  Stone filled him out, gave him body; he felt implemented and whole. His arm grew lighter and stronger with the passing of the hours.  These metal tools clothed him in their own armor.  They made him robust.”

Years ago, on my first trip to Florence, I remember seeing The David for the first time.  He is situated in the Accademia Gallery beneath a dome that filters light down around the statue.  To say The David is breathtaking is an understatement.  He is beyond beautiful – you can see every muscle, the veins throbbing beneath the skin, the proud stance, the concentrated brow.  Reading The Agony and the Ecstasy was, for me, an opportunity to visit The David again.  Except this time, through the novel, I learned the background – where the science and development of art stood at the time, how the politics and power played a role in the art, and how the opinion of a few could change lives.

Obviously, this book is about much more than Michelangelo’s David – it is about his life, his work, his passions.  But I think that my illustration of The David will give you a sense of the how important the artist was, so much so, that his work still leaves us awestruck.  Irving Stone did an incredible amount of research in putting together this novel – from having all of Michelangelo’s 495 letters  translated into English, to learning how to sculpt marble.  He obviously spent years learning preparing before he ever set down a single word.  I really enjoyed this book.  I learned so much about Michelangelo, his life and his times – and it was done in the format of a biographical novel that anyone can really enjoy.

4 stars (out of 5)
776 pages
Published in 1961

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About Suzanne

I'm a stay-at-home mom with three kids who loves to read.
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