Visitors flocked to see Michelangelo’s David sculpture in Florence on Tuesday, following an outcry over a Florida school’s decision to force the principal’s resignation following complaints about a lesson featuring the masterpiece of the Renaissance.
Tourists, many of them Americans on spring break or studying abroad, posed for selfies in front of the giant marble statue, which depicts the biblical David, naked with a scarf over his shoulder and a rock at the hand, ready to fight Goliath.
Florence’s Galleria dell’Accademia, which houses the sculpture, reopened on Tuesday after its weekly Monday closure, and tourists and locals were unable to visit above controversy.
“It’s part of the story,” said Isabele Joles of Ohio, who studies French and Italian art with her school group. “I don’t understand how you can say it’s porn.”
She and other visitors were reacting to the Tallahassee Classical School Board’s decision to pressure Principal Hope Carrasquilla to resign last week after an image of the David was shown to a class of sixth grade art.
Carrasquilla believes the council targeted her after three parents complained that they were not told in advance a nude image would be shown, while a third called the statue iconic, considered as the pinnacle of Renaissance sculpture, of pornographic. The school has a policy requiring parents to be notified in advance of “controversial” topics being taught.
Over the weekend, the mayor of Florence and the director of the museum expressed their disbelief at the heckling and invited the ousted director and the school community to come see the sculpture for themselves.
“We’re talking about the roots of Western culture, and ‘David’ is the pinnacle, pinnacle of beauty,” museum director Cecilie Hollberg said in an interview on Tuesday as tourists walked past her selfies with the statue.
The controversy was not just a topic of conversation in Florence. Monday evening in Tallahassee, a large crowd showed up for a school board meeting with public comments on the issue of the David statue controversy that lasted more than an hour, the The Tallahassee Democrat reported. Some parents and teachers have criticized the board and even called on President Barney Bishop to step down.
“Given the displeasure of all these parents with your leadership, would you be willing to lead us with integrity by stepping down?” Professor Ben Steigner asked.
Bishop declined, saying he intended to remain chairman until the end of his term in May and then another year on the board, the newspaper reported. The five trustees are elected by themselves, not by the parents, and serve three-year terms. New principal Cara Wynn told the school board that nine students have left school since the David controversy began, but three have enrolled.
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 curriculum designed by Hillsdale College, a conservative Christian school in Michigan frequently consulted by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on educational matters.
The Florida Department of Education, however, distanced itself from the controversy and the school’s decision.
“The statue of David has artistic and historical value. Florida encourages the teaching of classics and classical art, and would not prohibit its use in education,” the department said in a statement. “The matter at Tallahassee Classical School is between the school and an employee, and is not the effect of rule or state law.”
At the museum on Tuesday, Seattle Washington tourist Brian Stapley said he was sad for the school children.
“It’s one of the most incredible parts of our history,” he said as he waited in line to enter the museum. “I’m incredibly sorry for the kids who can’t see it.”