Looking for Souls in Stones

By Marisa Orton. Marisa, 15, lives in Fayence, France.

Imagine reaching out, oblivious to the whispering breeze which whistles past your face, feeling the delicate particles of smooth marble come to life beneath your touch; courageously, audaciously, you breathe in the realisation that your next movement could enlighten or obliterate our world. Michelangelo, an artist to put all others to shame, was one of the few individuals brave enough to take that chance, to risk everything in order to make the world a more exceptionally astonishing place. Not only did he bring us creations we could but have dreamed of otherwise, he also changed the way we perceived the spontaneously intriguing macrocosm around us. With his wondrous three-dimensional representations, Michelangelo changed the world of art forever and a part of this talent was his interpretation of his surroundings. A beautiful souvenir allowing us to glimpse into his imagination is his mesmerising declaration: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” What I adore most about this quote are the myriad of ways in which his ideas can be interpreted.

Firstly, my initial assumption is that it takes an angel to see an angel. Where the majority of us would have seen no more than a solid block of marble, Michelangelo saw an angelically resplendent spirit seeking freedom. As he began to sculpt, their souls met in a silent promise which led to the fabrication of masterpieces such as The Dying Slave. I visited this sculpture at Paris’s Le Louvre when I moved to France five years ago. This voyage also took me to Disneyland, Aquaboulevard and some of France’s greatest and most diverting tourist attractions, but my most prodigious memory is of Michelangelo’s statue. I’d heard this specific quote of his before, but until I saw The Dying Slave I’d never truly fathomed what it could mean. When I laid eyes on it, instantly incapable of looking away, a crimson bonfire of curious interest was sparked inside me; Michelangelo’s work possesses an aura of intense superiority and closeness unknown in most other artistic talents I’ve witnessed. Full of fierce passion, his statue captures such a wild range of emotions that observing his sculptures is almost like losing yourself in a deep and faultlessly precise mirror. Furthermore, as I began to understand The Dying Slave, I started to feel that angel’s presence by my side, as if it were protecting those of us who looked upon the work which had freed it. For one inexplicable moment, I was transported into Michelangelo’s complex world of ideas, methods, extremities, inventions and creation. I knew then why he understood the angels: he was one of them.

Secondly, this quote makes us understand the passion and faith Michelangelo bestowed in his sculptures. From the beginning stages of crafting a sculpture, he could see the, ‘angel,’ a term which, most probably, designates the final result. He was able to see instantly, from the moment he glanced his marble, the astounding angel of an idea he was soon to convey into a model. He, ‘carved until he set it free:’ he chiselled, smoothed and modelled until he could see that his idea had been done justice. It was only when he gently ran his fingertips over the intricately carved forms of his sculpture and smiled upon his work that the angel could finally be set free. Uncovering an artist with such an enraptured talent is exceptionally uncommon and leaves me wondering how many of us can truly say we have such a passion. My greatest love in the world is writing, but even after a lifetime of practicing and thriving in the contentment of doing what I love, I would be astonished if any of my pieces could create a similar sensation in a critic’s heart to Michelangelo’s sculptures. Some people wait a lifetime to discover their own shining talent, while others aren’t strong enough to seize theirs. Consequently, I believe Michelangelo is a wonderful inspiration to anyone having to fight to have the opportunity to chase down their dreams right until the end; he dedicated his life to what he loved most. Above and beyond, his true self can be seen in all that he did: his sculptures and attitude alike. He saw his sculpting as the freeing of an angel because it was what freed his heart in a way nothing else could.

Thirdly, the image Michelangelo gives us of seeing,’the angel in the marble,’ is a magnificent metaphor of how he saw the beauty in all he encountered. In today’s world, as technology transports us further into the future and insanity starts to overpower security, many of us live in fear of what could be lurking around the corner. We always seem to see the danger and maliciousness in our entourages. For example, why should be children have be afraid of the dark? There is no reason for our children to suspect that anonymously ambiguous assailants are hidden in the shadows; they shouldn’t have to carry the burden of the world’s evil on their shoulders from such a young age. They shouldn’t be scared to turn off the lights at night due to what others have told them about our planet’s most troubling threats. In my opinion, although awareness is crucial, we shouldn’t spend our lives looking back over our shoulders just to make sure we’re not being followed. Unlike Michelangelo’s words, we are not immortal-we only live once, so I think we deserve to make the best of our short time on this incredible planet. Michelangelo saw the world for the sublime paradise it truly is and I believe this is a part of what made him such an admirable artist. When I read his words, it would appear to me that he was trying to tell us not to be scared, because the world isn’t a notorious place, but rather a heaven filled with angels.

In conclusion, I believe there are an infinite number of lessons to be learned from a quote such as this one by Michelangelo; it seems he was able to sum up the entire universe in a matter of words. “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free,” is a quote I could write about forever. It is like an intriguingly ceaseless puzzle which I find myself unable to stop putting together, because it fascinates me. While it appears simple, its layers of meaning are hidden under the surface, patiently waiting to be understood by those who have the eyes to see them.

6 comments on “Looking for Souls in Stones

  1. Vicky Bryan on

    I really like this essay and think that it captivates readers in its acute analysis of Michelangelo’s hauntingly, beautiful words. This essay has my vo

  2. Julia on

    An insightful, lyrical essay that enchanted me.
    It puts into words my feelings and thoughts on the creative process.

  3. Julian on

    Franchement c’est super 🙂 Bien joué très bien écrit !! Bravo, on a le même âge et je serais bien incapable d’écrire un article pareil bravo bravo 🙂 Tu m’épate toujours autant :p


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