The Victoria and Albert Museum Reopens Cast Court With Queen Victoria’s ‘David’

Queen Victoria's copy of Michelangelo's David being restored at London's Victoria and Albert Museum by sculpture conservator Johanna Puisto. Photo by Getty Images.

Queen Victoria’s personal plaster cast of Michelangelo‘s David, the nudity of which so offended the ruler that she outfitted the sculpture with a fig leaf, has been restored for this weekend’s reopening of the Italian Cast Court of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A).

The sculpture, made from a mold taken from Michelangelo’s original monumental marble by Florentine cast-maker Clemente Papi in the 1850s, was a gift to the queen from Leopold II, the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Though the fig leaf has long been removed, the detachable modesty garment remains part of the museum’s collection.

“It’s tempting to think of a cast of a sculpture as something of an inferior copy, but the V&A’s plaster cast of probably the most famous sculpture in the world is much more than a simple reproduction of Michelangelo’s original,” said V&A sculpture conservator Johanna Puisto, assuring the Daily Mail that “it is a work of art in its own right and a superb example of great craftsmanship and technical achievement.

When the court reopens as the Weston Cast Court on November 29, it will feature over 60 19th-century reproductions of masterpieces of the Italian Renaissance. The David will be joined by copies of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s famed Gates of Paradise from the Florence Baptistery and the pulpit at the Pisa Cathedral, originally by the hand of Giovanni Pisano.

With the condition of Michelangelo’s original a continual cause for concern—reports vary as to the statue’s fragility (see “Will Weak Ankles Cripple Michelangelo’s David (and Italy’s GDP)?” and “Michelangelo’s David Is Fine“), it’s good to know that the V&A has such a prime example of the iconic work in house.

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