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Michelangelo's 'David' statue could collapse from micro-fractures

Getty Images - Many of the cracks appearing in Micelangelo's 'David' sculpture are in the left leg and tree-stump base, which support much of its weight. (Photo by Galleria dell'Accademia/Getty Images)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Many of the cracks appearing in Micelangelo's 'David' sculpture are in the left leg and tree-stump base, which support much of its weight.  (Photo by Galleria dell'Accademia/Getty Images)
Getty Images - FLORENCE, ITALY - MAY 24: Restoration work on Michelangelo's masterpiece David is completed, May 24, 2004 at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence. The work has taken a painstaking two years to complete with the statue going on show to the public tomorrow. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>FLORENCE, ITALY - MAY 24:  Restoration work on Michelangelo's masterpiece David is completed, May 24, 2004 at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence. The work has taken a painstaking two years to complete with the statue going on show to the public tomorrow. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Getty Images - FLORENCE, ITALY - MAY 24: Restoration work on Michelangelo's masterpiece David is completed, May 24, 2004 at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence. The work has taken a painstaking two years to complete with the statue going on show to the public tomorrow. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>FLORENCE, ITALY - MAY 24:  Restoration work on Michelangelo's masterpiece David is completed, May 24, 2004 at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence. The work has taken a painstaking two years to complete with the statue going on show to the public tomorrow. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images - FLORENCE, ITALY: Michelangelo's famous marble statue of 'David' is bathed in natural light streaming through the dome of Florence's Accademia Gallery 24 May 2004. The statue of 'David' has been cleaned up ahead of its 500th anniversary in September 2004. The restoration resumed in September after an aborted start when the original restorer quit in a dispute over how the statue should be cleaned. AFP PHOTO/Vincenzo PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AFP/Getty Images</em></div>FLORENCE, ITALY:  Michelangelo's famous marble statue of 'David' is bathed in natural light streaming through the dome of Florence's Accademia Gallery 24 May 2004. The statue of 'David' has been cleaned up ahead of its 500th anniversary in September 2004. The restoration resumed in September after an aborted start when the original restorer quit in a dispute over how the statue should be cleaned.   AFP PHOTO/Vincenzo PINTO  (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images - FLORENCE, ITALY: Michelangelo's famous marble statue of 'David' (L) is bathed in natural light streaming through the dome of Florence's Accademia Gallery 24 May 2004. The statue of 'David' has been cleaned up ahead of its 500th anniversary in September 2004. The restoration resumed in September after an aborted start when the original restorer quit in a dispute over how the statue should be cleaned. AFP PHOTO/Vincenzo PINTO (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AFP/Getty Images</em></div>FLORENCE, ITALY:  Michelangelo's famous marble statue of 'David'  (L) is bathed in natural light streaming through the dome of Florence's Accademia Gallery 24 May 2004. The statue of 'David' has been cleaned up ahead of its 500th anniversary in September 2004. The restoration resumed in September after an aborted start when the original restorer quit in a dispute over how the statue should be cleaned.   AFP PHOTO/Vincenzo PINTO  (Photo credit should read VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

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By The Los Angeles Times
Friday, May 2, 2014, 7:48 p.m.
 

Michelangelo's famous statue of the biblical figure David is at risk of collapse because of weakening of the artwork's legs and ankles, according to a report published this week by art experts.

The findings, which were made public by Italy's National Research Council, show micro-fractures in the ankle and leg areas.

The “David” statue dates from the early 16th century and is housed in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence. The results of the report were published this week in the Journal of Cultural Heritage, a publication devoted to research into the conservation of culturally significant works of art and buildings.

Researchers found that the carved tree stump at the base of the statue is at risk because it contains micro-fractures in the marble that Michelangelo used. Much of the sculpture's 5.5 tons rests on its left leg and the tree stump.

For more than three centuries after it was completed, the “David” sculpture stood outside in Florence's Piazza della Signoria. It was moved inside to the Galleria dell'Accademia in 1873, and a copy was put in its place in the piazza.

The new research, which was conducted with Florence University, shows the sculpture has been damaged over the years by the vibrations caused by the millions of tourists who have come to see the work of art. Passing automobile traffic is believed to have caused the tiny fractures in the sculpture's marble.

Researchers made plaster replicas of the sculpture and used a centrifuge to study the casts. Over the years, conservationists fortified the 17-foot-tall statue with plaster, but the work still appears to be at risk.

Reports in the Italian media say experts want to move the sculpture to an area outside of the city or to an earthquake-proof room in order to minimize the risk of a collapse.

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