The iconic statue of David by Michelangelo could crumble under the stress of its own weight because of “weak ankles” in the original construction of the masterpiece, warns the National Research Council (CNR) and Geosciences Institute at the University of Florence.
Micro-fractures in its legs have appeared on the sculpture which weighs 5.5 tonnes and researchers in Florence have warned that it could collapse under its own weight. The ornamental tree stump carved behind David’s right leg bears most of the statues weight and recent findings from the National Research Council show cracks.
Weak areas were also discovered in the ankles of the figure after a series of tests on plaster replicas were executed. It is thought that they occurred in the centuries when David was displayed in the city’s main square. The cracks most likely developed in 1844 when Florence was subject to flooding, causing the statue to be positioned leaning forward at a precarious angle. In 1847 additional weight was placed on the David while it was being cast by Clemente Papi. The tilting was corrected in 1873, when the statue was installed in the Accademia Gallery.
The work of art which measures 5m (17ft) also sufferes from the low-grade marble which Michelangelo favoured. It has also been suggested that the work is in danger from an earthquake, as well as road construction in the area of the gallery. Many experts think that David should be moved to a quake-proof room, or to a new gallery outside of the historic city.