Michelangelo's 'David' emerges from the bath

Last summer a row erupted in Florence over the right way to clean Michelangelo's
David, possibly the most famous sculpture in the world.

Last summer a row erupted in Florence over the right way to clean Michelangelo's David, possibly the most famous sculpture in the world.

Yesterday, four months before his 500th birthday, the 16ft marble man emerged from his controversial bath, still streaked with the more stubborn stains accumulated during his 350 years spent in the open, but looking "more fluid, more consistent, more harmonious", according to curator Antonio Paolucci.

Italy's top sculpture restorer resigned in a huff last year when her "dry cleaning" approach to restoring the statue was scorned. International art historians demanded that nothing be done to the 16th-century masterpiece until a consensus was reached on the right way to do it. But the gallery authorities pressed ahead, and yesterday unveiled the result. "The David is exactly as we have always seen it. Its colour has not changed," said Mr Paolucci, superintendent of the Polo Museale Fiorentino, "Only someone with expert knowledge and a thorough and long familiarity with the 'skin' of the statue will be aware that certain aesthetically unattractive regularities are no longer there, that the accumulations of ingrained dirt have vanished, that everything today looks more fluid, more consistent, more harmonious."

The original restorer on the project, Agnese Parronchi, wanted to use only very small, very soft badger-hair brushes, cotton buds, rubber erasers and chamois cloths to ease off the grime that had accumulated since David's last clean-up, a bracing douche of hydrochloric acid in 1843.

But Ms Parronchi's method, it was said, could merely drive the grime further inside the marble's pores. Her bosses wanted her to use a newer, wet approach, by which distilled water and a compress of cellulose pulp and meerschaum clay are applied to parts of the statue through a sheet of rice paper, to gently soak out the dirt.

"If I use that method I'll end up with a hunk of marble in the shape of David," Ms Parronchi retorted, and took her tiny brushes elsewhere.

Ms Parronchi's position was supported byArtWatch International, which has campaigned against many recent efforts of what it calls "the restoration industry", including Leonardo's Last Supper and Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, which have emerged startlingly brighter than before.

The founder of the group, James Beck, a Michelangelo expert who is professor of art history at Columbia University, said that David simply didn't need cleaning. "It's total cultural arrogance from the Florentine authorities," he said "The statue's skin should be allowed to age, almost organically. Instead, they are homogenising it."

But the Florence authorities ignored the protests and appointed another restorer, Cinzia Parnigoni, to do the job.

Yesterday the strain was clearly telling on Ms Parnigoni, who was close to tears during the presentation. "I have felt the weight of responsibility on my shoulders," she said. "It wasn't always easy to find the inner strength to carry out the restoration, but I felt the spirit of Michelangelo himself at my side."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory