Florida Principal Fired for Showing Michelangelo’s ‘David’ in Class Is Invited to Italy

Michelangelo's David Sculpture

Photo: SvetlanaSF/Depositphotos

Michelangelo's David is one of the most famous sculptures in history and an iconic representation of the Renaissance. But recently, it's become the center of controversy at a Florida charter school. An image of the marble statue was shown to sixth-grade students during a required lesson on Renaissance art at the Classical School in Tallahassee. Subsequently, several parents complained that they hadn't been made aware that the image would be shown in class. One parent even stated that the famous piece of art was “pornographic.” Now the school's principal, Hope Carrasquilla, has been forced to resign.

The news has made headlines across the United States and in Italy. The David sculpture is on display at Florence's Galleria dell'Accademia and the city's mayor Dario Nardella has extended an invitation for the school's former principal to the city to view the artwork. He also made his views on the parents' complaints clear: “To confuse art with pornography is simply ridiculous.”

Cecilie Hollberg, director of the Galleria dell’Accademia, wholeheartedly agrees. “To think that David could be pornographic means truly not understanding the contents of the Bible, not understanding Western culture and not understanding Renaissance art,” she told Fortune 

According to the school, the image of David, as well as Botticelli's The Birth of Venus and Michelangelo's The Creation of Adamboth of which feature nudity—are shown every year during the lesson. Typically, a letter is sent out to parents in advance so that anyone who feels that the imagery is inappropriate can opt out of the lesson. Due to what Carrasquilla classified as “a series of miscommunications” that letter was not sent out this year. And that's where the problem arose.

The former principal told Huffington Post that one parent was “point-blank upset” and “felt her child should not be viewing those pieces.” Carrasquilla, who has been principal for less than a year, was given the option to either resign or be let go from her position. While the educator doesn't deny that there were preexisting issues between her and the board, she feels that the art history lesson played a large role in her being forced out.

School board chair Barney Bishop told press outlets that the issue wasn't with David itself, noting that the image had been shown in previous years. For the board, the issue lay with the fact that the procedures to inform parents weren't followed. “We aren't trying to ban the picture,” he said. “We think it's beautiful, but we are going to make sure the concept of parental rights is supreme in Florida and at our charter school.”

The controversy comes at a time when Florida governor Ron DeSantis, who may run for President in 2024, has been signing several Republican-backed bills to shape K-12 education in the state. This includes the contentious Parental Rights' in Education Bill. The bill, which was called the “Don't Say Gay” bill by opponents, restricts the inclusion of a curriculum that discusses sexual orientation or gender identity in any way that is “not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.” Critics have blasted the policy for marginalizing LGBTQ children.

For acclaimed travel writer Rick Steves, the David controversy appears to be a sad extension of DeSantis' ideology. “Presumed Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis’s stance against ‘woke ideology' in public schools is just the latest example of the American insistence on seeing great art and the human body as somehow dirty,” he tweeted. “While Europeans have long since moved on, we Americans seem to be taking our cues from the Inquisition.”

A Florida principal was forced to resign after parents complained that a photo of Michelangelo's David statue was inappropriate material for a sixth-grade art history lesson.

Florida School Controversy About Michelangelo's David

Photo: Jörg Bittner Unna via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

The mayor of Florence, Italy—home of the David—has since extended an invitation for the principal to come and be celebrated by the city.

Many people have taken issue with this famous piece of art being equated with pornography.

h/t: [NPR]

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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