As if you need another reason to visit Italy, today, let's talk about the Galleria dell' Accademia that is home to Michelangelo's David. We have all seen Michelangelo's sculpture of David in photos, replicas, or the original, right? This 17-foot marble statue of the Biblical hero has become one of the most recognizable sculptures from the Renaissance period. The sculpture was originally commissioned as one of twelve Old Testament sculptures to be installed on the roof of the Florence Cathedral. However, did you know that the marble had been quarried, brought to Florence (no small undertaking in the 1400's), and was worked on by two other artists before Michelangelo was commissioned to transform it into the David we know today?
Marble is best sculpted after it is freshly cut and becomes increasingly brittle with exposure to the elements. In fact, this marble was considered "dead" because it had been sitting in the sun for over 30-years before Michelangelo transformed it into David. Somehow, the young Michelangelo took a piece of low quality marble that had been badly cut and created a beautiful statue.
Upon the sculpture's completion around 1504, the authorities acknowledged that installing the sculpture on the roof was unlikely. The sculpture was installed outdoors in the Palazzo della Signoria instead of the originally planned location. It remained in this outdoor location until it was moved into the Galleria dell'Accademia in 1873 in an effort to protect the masterpiece from further damage. Between the time the marble had been quarried, sculpted, and installed, it had been exposed to the elements for close to 400 years if I did the math correctly.
Why am I telling you this little tidbit of history? I am sharing this so you will have some background to understand why David has some weak ankles. It seems the ankles have developed micro-fractures as a result of exposure to the elements, the unusual position, and proportions (remember it was supposed to be viewed from a distance below which factored into the proportions and angle design), as well as other factors over the years. Scientists have mapped the micro-fractures and have determined that the masterpiece is in danger of collapse. Recent studies report, if David were tilted as little as 15-degrees, the ankles would no longer support the statue's weight. Yikes!