Ashton Bisner, OMN Photo Lead

An illustration created on April 8 of Michelangelo’s David sculpture holding a sign over its groin for censorship. The David sculpture has been in a debated discussion over whether or not the statue is pornographic after complaints came in from parents at a Florida school in Tallahassee, leading to the resignation of the school’s principal.

World in Chaos: Michelangelo’s ‘David’ is most recent white man accused of sexually suggestive behavior by Florida parents

May 2, 2023

You might not know his name or his story, but you can definitely recognise Michelangelo’s iconic marble statue of David, the Biblical character who killed the giant, Goliath. Standing 17 feet tall, the statue currently resides in Florence, Italy, and dates back to the early 1500s. He is majestic in every way and breathtaking from every angle. 

Oh, and he is fully nude. 

In late-March, a Floridian middle school principal was forced to resign from her job after a photograph of the famous “David” statue was shown to students in an art history class without parental consent. On May 1, the principal visited Florence to see the “David” in real life — the statue that got her fired.

Several parents complained that they were not informed about what would be shown to their children in art history. One parent even called Michelangelo’s “David” “pornographic.” 

“Michelangelo’s “David” is considered a masterpiece of Renaissance art,” explained Dr. Daniele Di Lodovico, a professor of art history at Oregon State University with a focus on medieval and Renaissance art. “‘David” was a symbol of (the Florentine) Republic’s bravery and resilience.”

How small does your worldview have to be to look at a magnificent piece of art that dates back centuries and honors thousands of years of culture and history, and reduce it to a penis? 

What does “David’s” nudity even symbolize?

“The decision to depict “David” as fully nude in Michelangelo’s statue was a deliberate artistic choice that reflected the humanistic and classical ideals of the Renaissance period,” Di Lodovico said. “Artists were interested in the human body as a subject of study and as a symbol of perfection, and nudity was often (used) to convey these ideals.” 

Michelangelo’s “David” was not necessarily created with the intention of representing sexuality, although it is up to the viewer to interpret the art they see before them. According to Di Lodovico, the real purpose of this piece was to embody bravery and resilience and to “serve as a symbol of Florence’s independence and strength.” 

Bravery, resilience, independence. Sound familiar? One could argue that these are some of the ideas that feed into southern American patriotism. A key quality of many Floridians – so why wouldn’t they want their children to learn these characteristics from “David?” a cis-gendered, straight, marble-white man? 

“The statue has been interpreted as a symbol of faith, as well as reflection of Michelangelo’s own religious beliefs,” said Di Lodovico. 

Since most 12 year olds probably already are being taught sex-ed (let’s hope so for the sake of sexual health!) it would come as no shock for them to see that “David” has a penis. 

These students are being educated about Western art, history and culture. Why would any parent want to deprive their child of receiving that education? 

“The statue is thus an homage to classical ideals of beauty and virtue,” added Di Lodovico. 

When has censorship worked? Since when has nudity only been associated with sexuality? Can we please keep beautiful and important works of art out of this petty culture war of ours that’s been driving everyone mad for the past five years? Where will the ultra-conservative population draw the line of censorship? How far will these people go to push their backwards, outdated, limiting, and frankly ridiculous agenda onto people? 

No matter what people in Florida or anywhere else decide, “David” will continue to stand there in Florence — magnificent, gorgeous and shamelessly butt-naked. Get over it. 

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