The Florence museum housing Michelangelo’s Renaissance masterpiece, the David, on Sunday invited parents and students of a Florida charter school to visit after complaints about a lesson featuring the statue forced the director to resign.
The mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, also tweeted an invitation to the director so that he could honor her personally. To confuse art with pornography was “ridiculous”, Nardella said.
THE Tallahassee Classical School Board of Trustees pressured principal Hope Carrasquilla to resign last week after a picture of the David was shown to a sixth grade art class. The school has a policy requiring parents to be notified in advance of “controversial” topics being taught.
The incredulous Italian response underscored how America’s culture wars are often viewed in Europe, where despite a rise in right-wing sentiment and governance, the Renaissance and its masterpieces, however bare, are generally free from controversy. The Sunday front page of the Italian daily Corriere della Sera featured a cartoon of its leading satirist depicting David with his genitals covered by an image of Uncle Sam and the word “Shame”.
Carrasquilla believes the council targeted her after three parents complained about a lesson that included a photo of the David, a 5-metre-tall (17ft) bare marble sculpture from 1504. The work, reflecting the heyday of the Italian Renaissance depicts the Bible. David will fight Goliath armed only with his faith in God.
Carrasquilla said two parents complained because they weren’t told in advance a nude would be shown, while a third called the iconic statue pornographic.
Carrasquilla said in a phone interview on Sunday that she was “very honored” by the invitations to Italy and could accept.
“I’m totally, like, wow,” Carasquilla said. “I’ve been to Florence before and seen the David up close and in person, but I would love to go there and be a guest of the mayor.”
Cecilie Hollberg, director of the Galleria dell’Accademia, where the David resides, expressed surprise at the controversy.
“To think that David might be pornographic really means not understanding the content of the Bible, not understanding Western culture, and not understanding Renaissance art,” Hollberg said in a phone interview.
She invited the principal, the school board, parents and the student body to see the “purity” of the statue.
Tallahassee Classical is a charter school. Although it is taxpayer-funded and tuition-free, it operates almost entirely independently of the local school district and is sought after by parents looking for an alternative to the public school curriculum.
About 400 K-12 students attend the three-year-old facility, which is now in its third principal. He follows a course designed by Hillsdale Collegea conservative Christian school in Michigan frequently consulted by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on educational issues.
Barney Bishop, chairman of the Tallahassee Classical School Board, told reporters that while the statue photo played a role in Carrasquilla’s ouster, it wasn’t the only factor. He declined to elaborate, while defending the decision.
“Parents have a right to know whenever their child learns of a controversial subject and image,” Bishop said in an interview with online magazine Slate.
Several parents and teachers plan to protest Carrasquilla’s departure at Monday night’s school board meeting, but Carrasquilla said she wasn’t sure she would return to the job even if it was offered to her.
“There has been such controversy and upheaval,” she said. “I should really ask myself, ‘Is this really what’s best?'”
Marla Stone, head of humanities studies at the American Academy in Rome, said the Florida incident was another episode in America’s escalating culture wars and questioned how the statue could be considered so controversial that it warranted advance warning.
“What we have here is a moral crusade against the body, sexuality and gender expression and an ignorance of history,” Stone said in an email. “The incident is about fear, the fear of beauty, difference and the possibilities inherent in art.”
Michelangelo Buonarroti sculpted the David between 1501 and 1504 after being commissioned by Florence Cathedral. The statue is the centerpiece of the Academy and helps attract 1.7 million visitors each year to the museum.
“He’s incredibly sought after by Americans who want to take selfies and enjoy the beauty of this statue,” Director Hollberg said.
The museum, like many in Europe, is free for student groups. There was no indication that a trip would be subsidized by the city or the museum.