When word got out that a principal in Florida was forced to resign after allowing a teacher to show an image of Michelangelo's David in a sixth-grade class, it caused an uproar. Shortly after her resignation, educator Hope Carrasquilla was invited to view the artwork in person by Florence's mayor Dario Nardella. Last week, she took him up on the offer and made her way across the Atlantic Ocean to Italy, where she was treated to a personal tour of the museum that houses the sculpture.
On display at Florence's Accademia Gallery, the David is considered one of the greatest masterpieces in Western art, yet was called “pornographic” by one parent whose child was in the class. Carrasquilla and her family toured the museum with its director Cecilie Holberg. The educator, who had been at the helm of the Classical School in Tallahassee since the beginning of the academic year, was grateful for the opportunity to see David in the setting.
“The thing that impresses me the most is that this whole gallery was built for him. I think it’s beautiful; it looks like a church,” Carrasquilla says. “There is nothing wrong with the human body in and of itself. Michelangelo would have done him wrong to sculpt him in any other way. I think it’s wonderful.”
While the exact reason that Carrasquilla was asked to resign is not known, local officials say that it does not involve the David statue, which had been shown to students in previous years. They point to issues around communication with parents and other issues that cropped up earlier in the year. Carrasquilla, however, believes it centered around complaints made by several parents over the art history lesson.
Her resignation caused such controversy that the Florida Department of Education was forced to release a statement about David. “The Statue of David has artistic and historical value,” it read. “Florida encourages instruction on the classics and classical art, and would not prohibit its use in instruction.”
View this post on Instagram
Holberg was thrilled to show Carrasquilla the masterpiece and confirm its value to Western culture. “I am delighted to personally introduce her to David, a sculpture that has nothing to do with pornography,” Holberg explains. “It is a masterpiece representing a religious symbol of purity and innocence, the triumph of good over evil.”
Many clearly agree with Holberg. Over 1.5 million people visited the Accademia in 2022, making it one of the most popular museums in Italy. Many of these visitors are American, as travelers from the United States make up a large portion of Italy's yearly visitors.
One of those visitors recently told NPR that he feels sad about the possibility of school children missing out on the opportunity to learn about David. “It's one of the most incredible parts of our history,” he shares. “I feel incredibly sorry for the children that don't get to see it.”
During her time in the city, Carrasquilla was also received by the mayor at his official residence. There she was presented with a special parchment that honored her “commitment to educating the younger generation about beauty and harmony through art.”
Interestingly, views about Michelangelo's use of nudity in his artwork have shifted many times in history. For example, his Last Judgement fresco in the Sistine Chapel famously had nudity covered by an artist hired shortly after Michelangelo's death. This action was sparked by the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Church's subsequent reforms on religious art at the Council of Trent.
The uproar in Florida is just another example of how current politics and shifting cultural norms can inform how we read into the art of the past.
Hope Carrasquilla was forced to resign as principal of a Florida private school after Michelangelo's David was shown to students without prior consent by parents.
The international outrage at the famous sculpture being compared to pornography led to an invitation for the educator to visit Florence.
Un’insegnante della Florida è stata costretta a licenziarsi per aver mostrato agli studenti le foto del David di Michelangelo. Scambiare l’arte per pornografia è semplicemente ridicolo. pic.twitter.com/Gn8UM3HUqe
— Dario Nardella (@DarioNardella) March 25, 2023
Carrasquilla and her family made their way to Florence, where she toured the Accademia Gallery with the museum director.
She was also greeted by the city's mayor, who gave her a special certificate for her “commitment to educating the younger generation about beauty and harmony through art.”