Michelangelo’s David is at risk of falling over after an earthquake or roadworks because of fractures in the statue’s ankles, researchers have said.
Experts from the National Research Council and Florence University made plaster replicas of the statue, and subjected them to high forces.
Small fractures in the statue’s ankle — likely developed when it was displayed outside, leaning forward — mean that they could be unable to support the rest of its body. Attempts to cover the breaks with plaster have frequently failed.
“Micro-fractures are visible in the left ankle and the carved tree stump (that bears some of David’s weight), threatening the stability of the sculpture,” the National Research Council warned.
The statue's weight, pose and the low-quality marble it is made of mean that it could topple in time, or if it is disrupted by an earthquake or roadworks or maintenance of its home in the Accademia Gallery, researchers have warned. The marble contains microscopic holes that cause it to deteriorate faster than other materials.
Some have suggested that the statue should be moved to a special room to keep it from being affected by earthquakes, or to take it to a purpose built centre outside of the city. The vibration of tourists’ footsteps around the academy are also thought to damage the statue.
The sculpture was made between 1501 and 1504, when it was placed outside of a government building in Florence to represent the city state’s power and success. The statue was moved to the Accademia Gallery in 1873, where it has stayed since, and replaced at the original location by a replica that is often mistaken for the real thing.
A man broke part of the statue’s toe with a hammer in 1991, and said that he had been instructed by a 16-century Venetian painter’s model to do so.