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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Michelangelo’s David Is at Risk of Falling Over

A biblical hero and flawless Renaissance man brought down by his Achilles heel.

By Meg Watson
May 02, 2014
  shares

Michelangelo’s David Is at Risk of Falling Over

A biblical hero and flawless Renaissance man brought down by his Achilles heel.

By Meg Watson
May 02, 2014
  shares

Michelangelo's David means a whole lot of things to Western culture. He's a perfect specimen of the Renaissance man, all toned and taut and towering. He's a biblical hero; defeating Goliath in awe-inspiring fashion and becoming the original underdog. We've marvelled at his perfection for generations and now, he may be brought down by the fact he has weak ankles. It's poetic, really.

Italian researchers have recently found a number of weak spots in the iconic statue's ankles they claim could be fatal — in as much as anything can be fatal to a statue — in the coming months. At a whopping 5,572kg, the BBC report David could collapse under his own weight if disturbed by as much as nearby roadworks.

With microfractures also appearing in his legs and supporting tree stump, David's prognosis doesn't look great for a number of reasons. Firstly, the marble Michelangelo used is of a poor quality and fragile at the best of times. Secondly, his pose is naturally off-centre and La Gazetta del Sud reported that he was positioned on a dangerous angle in the city's main square for three centuries. Thirdly, he's 510 years old. You'd be showing some wear and tear at that age too.

This isn't David's first time in the wars either. During a riot in 1529 he lost the lower half of his left arm and in 1991 he suffered a smashed toe at the hand of another artist. These injuries have all been restored and David regularly undergoes superficial restorations in the way of cleaning. But addressing these structural problems is a whole separate issue — is it our place to interfere or should we let David go out gracefully?

Some historians have previously argued that David should go into hiding in order to retain his aura and if that is to happen, now seems like the opportune time. "I'd like to see [it] disappear for a couple of hundred years, so it's expunged from our consciousness and our popular references," said historical novelist Sarah Dunnant. "[Then] it can be found again — like the Statue of Liberty at the end of the Planet of the Apes — and seen again with a sense of awe."

Maybe this is the answer. David's been on his feet for an awfully long time and perhaps he deserves a break. Surely any attempts to amend the structural integrity of his marble would end in some kind of humiliating amputation or plaster leg cast. At what point do we let history run its course?

Picture it: the man who slew Goliath in one mighty blow taken down by his Achilles' heel. How appropriate.

David

Via BBC and ABC.

Published on May 02, 2014 by Meg Watson

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