Is Michelangelo’s David Sculpture on Verge of Collapsing?


Michelangelo's statue of the biblical figure David in the Accademia Gallery, Florence, is in danger of falling apart due to its feeble legs and ankles, according to findings from Italy's National Research Council (CNR) and the University of Florence.

Researchers said that tiny cracks spotted around the statue's ankles and the carved tree stump could weaken the masterpiece's stability. The sculpture's 5.5 tons is majorly balanced by its left leg and the tree stump, LA Times reports.

The researchers arrived at the findings by testing 10cm plaster imitations of the 17-foot-tall statue inside a centrifuge. They subjected the replicas to pressures more powerful than the force of gravity. The pressures targeted a series of micro-fractures on the legs of the replica David, whose ankles are believed to be too fragile to hold up the weight (5,572 kilograms) of the sculpture securely.

"Micro-fractures are visible in the left ankle and the carved tree stump (that bears part of the statue's weight), threatening the stability of the sculpture," CNR said, the Italian news agency ANSA reports.

The marble sculpture, chiselled from a single block of marble in 1504, was moved inside Galleria dell'Accademia in 1873 after its surface became coarse and pockmarked. A replica was installed in its original site in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence, Italy, in 1910.

The cracks in the original statue's ankles were detected for the first time during a recent restoration procedure. They are believed to have developed during its stay in the main city square for more than a century. Vibrations from tourists and automobile traffic are also believed to have added to the wear and tear.

Researchers said that the cracks in the left ankle and tree stump have reappeared time and again even after being coated with plaster.

Due to the weight of the original statue, its pose and the use of poor quality marble, experts have long claimed that the sculpture is in danger of a downfall in the event of a large earthquake, persistent vibrations from a nearby city or even from road construction projects. Florence has so far reported 127 minor quakes.

Experts have advised the sculpture to be transported to a facility/ earthquake-resistant underground room to protect it from natural disasters/seismic activity and to decrease the risk of disintegration.

The finding is published in the Journal of Cultural Heritage.

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