Influenced by study in Italy, biography of Michelangelo’s David now on Kickstarter

by Alexandra Korey / Mar 22, 2014 / 0 comments

Prof. Victor Coonin has been “into” Italian Renaissance art history for his whole adult life, but the experience of doing his Masters degree at Syracuse University in Florence was unquestionably a formative one. Up close contact with original works of art allows you to live with art and understand it better. This kind of human contact is one of the elements that makes his new book, “From Marble to Flesh. The Biography of Michelangelo’s David,” a particularly readable narrative about the world’s most famous statue.


Michelangelo's David

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Although it’s carefully researched and written by a professor (he went on to get his PhD at Rutgers and is now Chair of art at Rhodes – see his CV), the book is intended to help anyone interested in art – or in Italy – get closer to it, which is why Coonin’s publisher, The Florentine Press, has put it up on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter. This public appeal to fund the printing of the book is part of a declared desire to reach out to people, for Coonin is a born educator.


Stories are what make art history come alive, and the challenge of any professor is to tell stories that inspire students and give them an opportunity to “travel” in their minds, even when they cannot, at that moment, see the works in person. In this book, for example, the author describes in detail the very physical challenges involved in excavating the marble block that would become the David more than half a century later. With modern society’s focus on the final result and the artistic genius behind it, it’s easy to forget practical details like how difficult it was to extract such a huge piece of marble from a quarry in the mountains Carrara, and then transport it overland by oxen and float it down a river, and manage not to break the thing before it landed in the artist’s workshop in Florence. Details like this draw readers into Coonin’s story and remind them that mere humans were behind this now iconic artistic production.


 "World-famed quarries which have furnished marble for Italy's master sculptures, Carrara, Italy". Stereo card. © 1903, catalogue # 2037.

 "World-famed quarries which have furnished marble for Italy's master sculptures, Carrara, Italy". Stereo card. © 1903, catalogue # 2037. Wikimedia Commons


The book has a strong Florentine bent – in the Kickstarter video, the publisher’s director, Marco Badiani, points out that in his opinion, a book about this very Florentine, very Italian sculpture must be made in Florence, including the printing on a local offset printer. They’re hoping to support the local economy through this choice, including using paper that is made in Italy. The press, the professor, his university and various research grants have contributed to funding the book so far, but they’re hoping to raise a final 5000 dollars that will go towards printing costs, and most of all, be a positive declaration from the public that wants to read this book.


The Kickstarter campaign has various reward levels – you can get the ebook for only 10$, and the paper book shipped to the USA or around the world for 44$. It’s a small price to pay to become part of the community that is gathering together to make this project happen. Here’s the link to learn more: