Will Weak Ankles Cripple Michelangelo’s ‘David’ (and Italy’s GDP)?

Fractures in David's ankles may cause Michelangelo's masterpiece to collapse.

Michelangelo's David at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence. Photo by Annie Slizak, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

Michelangelo‘s David (1501–04) has always seemed the very image of youth, virility, and strength, but a scientific analysis of the statue has discovered that it is actually quite fragile: Tiny fractures in David‘s ankles are endangering the sculpture, which could collapse, reports the Telegraph.

The testing was conducted by the National Research Council and Florence University. Despite the statue’s iconic beauty, Michelangelo used sub-par marble to create his masterpiece, which weighs in at five and a half tons and measures 17 feet from toe to crown. Over the years, this initial weakness has been compounded by the century that David has spent leaning at an angle.

Housed in Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia since 1873, the statue, which depicts a young King David, the biblical hero who as a boy killed the giant Goliath with a single stone, spent the first 350-plus years of its life outdoors, in the city’s Piazza della Signoria. It was commissioned by the Medici family to serve as a symbol of the diminutive city-state’s commercial and military strength.

The Telegraph filed a similar report three years ago, when engineers building a high-speed rail tunnel some 2,000 feet away expressed concerns that vibrations from the digging would cause David to crumble to its knees. Even minor vibrations such as those caused by nearby motor traffic and the footfalls of museum visitors are thought to be exacerbating the existing cracks.

For years now, there have been calls to move the piece from the Accademia and into a special earthquake-proofed facility that would be less exposed to potentially damaging traffic, roadwork, and construction. It remains to be seen if the recent findings will prompt action.

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