Michelangelo's David Measures Up

Roundup: Talking About History

Unsigned, The Australian, 11 Oct. 2004

Rome: An anatomy professor yesterday gave Michelangelo an A-plus for his masterpiece David, despite one small flaw: a missing muscle in the statue's back.

University of Florence anatomy professor Massimo Gulisano, working with haematology professor Pietro Bernabei, said their measurements of the statue also debunked long-held notions that the 4.1m-high hunk of marble was out of proportion.

"Some say the feet, the hands are out of proportion. It's not true," Professor Gulisano said during a two-day conference in Florence of art historians, restorers and scientists to mark the 500th anniversary of the statue's unveiling.

"Michelangelo knew anatomy very well. There was only one error. There was a hollow where there should have been a muscle on the right side of the back."

But Michelangelo, who learned anatomy by dissecting cadavers, was aware of the flaw, Professor Gulisano added, writing in a letter that a defect in the marble block forced him to leave out that muscle.

The professors also admired the technical correctness with which Michelangelo depicted the tensions in the muscles of the biblical hero, who, with his slingshot, was about to challenge Goliath.

Some observers have commented that David's genitals seemed a little small, but the professors told the conference that measurements indicated all was normal.

"Taking in consideration this is a statue of a young man who was thinking about a battle that was about to happen, everything is normal," Professor Gulisano said.

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