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Art & Culture

Florida Principal Resigns Over Michelangelo’s David Controversy

  • Craig Miller
  • |
  • April 18, 2023
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  • 3 minute read
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Florida Principal Resigns Over Michelangelo’s David Controversy
Key Takeaways
  • The display of Michelangelo's David in a sixth-grade art-history course sparked controversy among parents, leading to the resignation of the school's principal, Hope Carrasquilla.
  • Michelangelo's David is a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance and a symbol of humanist values. It was initially intended for the roof of the Florence Cathedral but was installed at the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio due to its weight.
  • In response to the controversy, the director of Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence invited the students, teachers, and former principal to visit the museum, emphasizing the importance of the artwork as an icon of art and culture.
  • The incident has raised concerns about censorship and the role of art in education. Experts on Renaissance art and Western culture emphasize the need to distinguish between nudity and pornography and to appreciate the complexities of human history and culture.
  • The controversy highlights the importance of establishing an educational environment that supports the teaching of art and culture without censorship and encourages the cultivation of an appreciation for the complexities of human history and culture.

 

A Tallahassee, Florida charter school, Tallahassee Classical School, has made headlines after a sixth-grade art-history course including Michelangelo’s statue of David sparked controversy among parents.

As a result, the school’s principal, Hope Carrasquilla, resigned in late March. Some parents complained about the sculpture’s nudity, with one even labeling it “pornographic.”

The school board pressured Carrasquilla to resign, claiming parents weren’t notified in advance that a nude image would be shown.

Michelangelo’s David: A Symbol of Humanist Values

Michelangelo’s David is a 17-foot tall marble sculpture depicting the biblical story of David going to fight Goliath with a sling and his faith in God.

The statue is considered a masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance and a symbol of humanist values.

Michelangelo created the statue between 1501 and 1504, after he was chosen to complete the abandoned work started by sculptors Agostino di Duccio and Antonio Rossellino.

The masterpiece was initially intended for the roof of the Florence Cathedral, but due to its six-ton weight, it was installed at the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio.

In 1873, it was moved to the Accademia Gallery to protect it from damage caused by the uneven ground at the original site.

Invitation to Florence: Learning from the Source

In response to the controversy, Cecilie Hollberg, director of Galleria dell’Accademia in Florence, has invited the students, teachers, and former principal to visit the museum housing the statue. 

Hollberg defended Carrasquilla, stating that she should be “rewarded, not punished.” She added, “talking about the Renaissance without showing the David, an undisputed icon of art and culture and of that historical period, would make no sense.”

Florence Mayor Dario Nardella also invited the teacher who showed the image to visit the city and its works of art, tweeting, “mistaking art for pornography is simply ridiculous.” He urged those involved in the incident to respect the value of art as a representation of civilization.

Michelangelo created the statue between 1501 and 1504, after he was chosen to complete the abandoned work started by sculptors Agostino di Duccio and Antonio Rossellino.

Art vs. Pornography: A Cultural Debate

The incident has left experts on Renaissance art and Western culture in disbelief. Hollberg stated that considering David as pornographic reflects a failure to understand the Bible and Western culture.

She pointed out that a distinction must be made between nudity and pornography, emphasizing that David represents a young shepherd defending his people.

Florentine art historian Tomaso Montanari called the situation “disconcerting” and highlighted the presence of fundamentalist views within the Western world.

He expressed dismay at the absence of educational freedom and the restriction and manipulation of art by families.

Montanari’s sentiments echo a broader concern about the role of censorship in education and its impact on cultural understanding.

Moving Forward: Reconsidering Educational Priorities

While some parents and teachers plan to protest Carrasquilla’s resignation at the school board meeting, she remains uncertain about taking her position back, given the controversy and upheaval.

Carrasquilla’s hesitation underlines the importance of establishing an educational environment that supports the teaching of art and culture without censorship.

Back in Florence, Hollberg posed a thought-provoking question: “Does that make it pornography? Should entire cities be shut down because of the artistic depictions of the human form?”

The controversy surrounding Michelangelo’s David serves as a reminder of the ongoing debates about the role of art in education and the necessity of cultivating an appreciation for the complexities of human history and culture.

Craig Miller

Craig Miller

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