Michelangelo’s famous statue of the biblical figure David is at risk of collapse due to the weakening of the artwork’s legs and ankles, according to a report published this week by art experts.
The findings, made public by Italy’s National Research Council, show microfractures in the ankle and leg areas.
The statue dates from the early 16th century and is housed in the Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence.
Researchers found that the carved tree stump at the base of the statue is at risk, too, because it may also contain microfractures in the marble that Michelangelo used. Much of the sculpture’s 5.5 tons rests on its left leg and the tree stump.
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For more than 300 years 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 shows that the sculpture has been damaged over the years from vibrations caused by the millions of tourists who have come to see the work of art. Passing automobile traffic is also believed to have helped cause 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 to minimize the risk of a collapse.