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Preserving David

When you think of The Ringling what is the first image that comes to mind?

While your answer might vary depending on your interests, the replica of Michelangelo’s David statue in the Courtyard of the David_Ringling_CourtyadMuseum of Art against the backdrop of palm trees and Sarasota Bay represents The Ringling well. The image is so iconic that David is also the symbol of the city of Sarasota. If the statue were destroyed how big of a loss would it be to the cultural legacy of Sarasota?

Officials at Italy’s National Research Council must face this question with Michelangelo’s original masterpiece. The statue may collapse under its 5.5 ton-weight due to structural weakness in the legs and ankles according to a report recently published in the Journal of Cultural Heritage.

Both the legs and the tree stump that Michelangelo used at the base are at risk of crumbling under the weight of the ages.

Michelangelo completed David in the period between 1501 and 1504. The 17-foot tall marble statue depicts the Biblical hero David, who was a popular subject of Florence-based artists. For most of its existence, David stood outside in Florence’s Piazza della Signoria. In 1873, officials moved the statue inside the Galleria dell’Accademia, where conservators have studied it and attempted to reinforce it with plaster. For more information about the original David click here.

Lucklily for Sarasota, structurally, our sculpture is sound according to Barbara Ramsay, chief conservator at The Ringling. The Sarasota David faces aesthetic issues in terms of the appearance of the bronze surface. The main problem with outdoor bronzes is the ongoing corrosion of the surface layers of the metal Ramsay says.

Rain and salty sea air are the primary culprits in terms of inducing alterations such as greenish discoloration. In order to slow down this process, the bronze is coated with a special wax that affords some protection of the metal and original patina layers from the elements. The wax coating has to be removed and re-applied periodically in order to reinstate its protective properties. Maintenance of the outdoor bronze sculpture is one of many  conservation responsibilities of the museum.

 

 

 

 

 

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