Image by unknown author, found at John Turners blog, with black and white digital adjustment by Simon Griffee.
Michelangelo, “Atlas Slave”, marble, height 208 cm (approximately 7 feet), c.1525–30, Accademia, Florence. Photograph by unknown author, from John Turner’s blog.

Before I visited the Accademia in Florence I had read about Michelangelo’s Prisoners in The Story of Art by E. H. Gombrich: the unfinished sculptures intended to adorn a pope’s tomb. These sculptures line the hall that leads to Michelangelo’s David, and have stayed with me longer than the impressive nude hero. The Prisoners (or Slaves or Captives) are the perfect image of the creative process, the chipping away at marble to reveal character, or whatever expression you’re after. It is said that Michelangelo believed he removed stone from around figures that were already there. Writing works the same way, chipping away at words from draft to draft until a story, a muscular torso, a powerful forearm, appears.

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