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Author: Francesca Bisi (Page 1 of 3)

The David Reconsidered: Art, Censorship, and Outrage

Michelangelo’s David (censored). © edit Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic.

If you have been anywhere near social media this week, it’s likely you’ve heard about the recent controversy that has pushed a small Florida school into a global spotlight. At the Tallahassee Classical school, sixth graders were learning about Michelangelo’s David, a standard part of the curriculum. There was nothing standard, however, about the response. Three parents complained about their children being shown a “pornographic” statue, leading to the principal’s resignation and a viral, international response.

Completed in 1504, Michelangelo’s 17-foot-tall David shows the titular Biblical hero waiting in anticipation for his foe, Goliath. Created when Michelangelo was in his 20s, it has today become one of the most recognizable works of Italian Renaissance art. First intended to decorate one of the buttresses of Florence’s cathedral, it was instead moved to the piazza in front of Palazzo Vecchio, Florence’s one-time seat of government. There, David faced southward, towards Rome, a symbol of the young republic’s underdog status and resilience against the mighty Papal States. Today, it is instead on display in the Galleria dell’Accademia, where it looms at the end of a grand hallway lined with Michelangelo’s Slaves.

The Galleria dell’Accademia pairs the David with to Michelangelo’s Slaves. © Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze

The David has been an essential part of the art history curriculum since Vasari first collected artist biographies in his famous Lives. From the careful rendering of anatomy to the contrapposto pose full of coiled energy, this sculpture reveals many facets of the Renaissance style lauded by Vasari and subsequent art historians. A celebration of the idealized human form and a reflection of the artistic fashions of the early sixteenth century, its nudity is far from unusual. The walls of the Vatican, the seat of the Holy See, are filled with nude or semi-nude figures. Michelangelo himself painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the current site of the Papal Conclave, depicting several such individuals. Still, This Florida school is not the first to take issue with figures, even religious ones, which are shown without clothes. In Post-Tridentine Rome, the nudes in the Sistine Chapel were viewed with a much more critical eye. The Roman artist Daniele da Volterra was commissioned to cover their genitals with clothing, earning him the unfortunate nickname Il Braghettone, or The Breeches Maker.

While Michelangelo’s reputation as one of the great artists in the art historical canon has largely ensured the study of his oeuvre ad infinitum, this recent controversy reveals that even he is not exempt from outrage. After the school began receiving complaints from parents, it gave its principal, Hope Carrasquilla, two choices—resign or be fired. Barney Bishop III, chair of the school board, made the issue clear; above all else, it was a question of parents’ rights. The outrage revolved around an email the administration accidentally forgot to send to parents, informing them of the inclusion of the nude David in that particular class. In an interview with Slate, Bishop also insisted that Carrasquilla had not been fired, but had rather resigned, although he also acknowledges that it was a forced resignation.

Visitors in front of Michelangelo’s David in the Galleria dell’Accademia. © AP Photo, Alessandra Tarantino.

In Bishop’s view, it is the parent, not the teacher, or even the school board, who decides what is or isn’t appropriate for students to learn. This is, of course, a strange sentiment in light of the extensive training, education, and certifications that most educators and administrators must earn. Why shouldn’t these professionals be allowed to shape the curriculum without fear that it might lead to their termination if a handful of parents disagree? However, as Bishop stated in his interview with Slate, in Florida “Parents will decide. Parents are the ones who are going to drive the education system here in Florida. The governor said that, and we’re with the governor.”

This cannot be considered without bringing into the conversation the recent wave of legislation, especially in Florida, surrounding parents’ rights in education. Legislation like the “Parental Rights in Education” bill signed into law in 2022, restricts or entirely prohibits discussions of gender and sexuality in schools. Bishop’s views on this are clear: “We’re not gonna teach 1619 or CRT crap. I know they do all that up in Virginia. The rights of parents, that trumps the rights of kids. Teachers are the experts? Teachers have all the knowledge? Are you kidding me? I know lots of teachers that are very good, but to suggest they are the authorities, you’re on better drugs than me.”

Dario Nardella’s tweet, reading “I will personally invite the teacher to Florence to give her a recognition in the name of the city. Art is civilization and whoever teaches it merits respect.”

Responses to this have been swift, with social media fueling the spread of the story and subsequent interviews. The mayor of Florence himself tweeted in support of the principal (who he incorrectly identifies as a teacher), inviting them to Florence and adding “Art is civilization, and whoever teaches it merits respect.” In an article with the Associated Press, Cecilie Hollberg, director of the Galleria dell’Accademia where the David is currently housed, invited Florida’s school board, former principal, parents, and students to visit the museum and see for themselves the “purity” of the statue, adding “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.”

The crux of this story is the restrictive policies—often centered around sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and racism—which are increasingly shaping children’s education throughout the United States. What this incident reveals is that even a masterpiece that has been praised for centuries is not exempt from this type of outrage. Museums play an important role in preserving and communicating art and history to the public. However, if these policies continue to be enacted, their ability to educate will be severely impeded. We must turn a critical eye to the biases and discrimination that are at the heart of incidents such as this one in order to best protect museums and schools, curators and educators, teachers and students, from the restrictive mindset of a loud minority.

Further Reading:

Winfield, Nicole, and Terry Spencer. “Is the David porn? Come see, Italians tell Florida parents.” AP News. March 27, 2023. https://apnews.com/article/italy-michelangelo-hillsdale-florida-florence-david-56d2977c3fceefd02f475f9d4d0be3d9

Kois, Dan. “An Interview With the School Board Chair Who Forced Out a Principal After Michelangelo’s David  Was Shown in Class.” Slate. March 23, 2023. https://slate.com/human-interest/2023/03/florida-principal-fired-michelangelo-david-statue.html

Gabbatt, Adam. “Art, not pornography: Florence museum invites Florida parents to see the David.” The Guardian. March 27, 2023. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/mar/27/michelangelo-david-florida-florence-museum-school

Akers, Torey. “Florida school principal fired for showing students Michelangelo’s ‘pornographic’ David sculpture.” The Art Newspaper. March 23, 2023. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2023/03/23/florida-principal-fired-michelangelo-david-pornographic

Akers, Torey. “Florence’s mayor invites Florida students and their former principal to experience the ‘purity’ of Michelangelo’s David.” The Art Newspaper. March 27, 2023. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2023/03/27/florence-mayor-invites-floridians-michelangelo-david

Velie, Elaine. “Florida Principal Ousted Over “Pornographic” Michelangelo Sculpture.” Hyperallergic. March 24, 2023. https://hyperallergic.com/810358/florida-principal-ousted-over-pornographic-michelangelo-sculpture/

Kim, Juliana. A principal is fired, invited to Italy after students are shown Michelangelo’s ‘David’.” NPR. March 27, 2023. https://www.npr.org/2023/03/27/1166079167/tallahassee-classical-michelangelo-david-principal-fired

Article by Francesca Bisi

MA Candidate in Art History and Museum Studies, Tufts University

Weekly Job Roundup (3/31/2023)

Welcome to the weekly roundup! We do our best to collect the latest job openings, and please be sure to check last week’s roundup. For more opportunities, we recommend the following databases:





Museums in Wartime: The Place of Art and History in the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

We are rapidly approaching the one-year mark of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the latest and most extreme in a series of Russo-Ukrainian conflicts. The past year has seen widespread destruction throughout the country, with over eight million refugees leaving their homes to flee the violence. [1] This invasion did not appear out of the blue—on the contrary, there is a long history of political and military conflict between the two nations. Among the most recent examples of this is the 2014 invasion of eastern Ukraine and subsequent annexation of Crimea, a widely condemned action that resulted in Russia’s expulsion from the G8. [2] As with many other military conflicts, one of the most fragile—and most symbolic—elements endangered by violence and looting is art. As material representations of history and identity, works of art ranging from religious objects, paintings, sculptures, and architecture can become rallying symbols for revolutions or desired prizes through which victors can proclaim their ownership of a certain culture.

This brings us to the crucial role that Russia and Ukraine’s shared history plays in the motivation and propaganda surrounding this conflict. Kyivan Rus, which at its peak spanned a considerable part of Eastern Europe, was the largest kingdom by territory between the 11th and 13th centuries. At its heart was the city of Kyiv, which is today the capital of Ukraine. From roughly 882 to 1240 CE, this kingdom produced a significant cultural output and gave rise to several figures still important in the region today. Among these is St. Olga, who functioned as regent of Kyivan Rus during the reign of her son and is now revered with the epithet “Equal to the Apostles.”

Monument to Olga in St. Michael’s Square in Kyiv, Ukraine. Source: Risu.

Kyivan Rus is, of course, not the only instance in which the territories of modern Ukraine and Russia were conjoined. Beginning in the 18th century, Ukraine was controlled by the Russian Empire and, by 1922, it become part of the USSR. The last century has seen Ukraine face challenges such as the Holodomor, a man-made famine that resulted in the deaths of millions of Ukrainians between 1932 and 1933, and the infamous Chernobyl nuclear disaster, which made a part of northern Ukraine uninhabitable. It was only on December 1st, 1991 that Ukraine declared independence from the USSR.

For Ukraine, Kyiv remains the center of the mighty kingdom that once dominated Eastern Europe. For Russia—or, rather, for several Russian leaders like Vladimir Putin—Kyivan Rus is proof that the Ukrainians are Russian, and thus must be brought back into the fold of Russian leadership. [3] It is partly with this logic that Putin’s government justified the invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing violence in the region.

At the heart of the use of this history is the presence of artworks originating from Kyivan Rus, whose cultural significance gives their holder a currency through which to claim the past. A recent report from The Art Newspaper investigates this topic, raising concerns about the looting of the Ukrainian cultural patrimony at the hands of invading Russian troops. [4] The report centers around Kherson, a city on the Black Sea that was invaded at the beginning of the war in 2022. When Ukrainian troops reentered the city in October 2022, the Kherson Regional Art Museum had survived, but its collections were missing. Andrei Malgin, director of the Crimean Simferopol art museum, has stated that he was “instructed to take the exhibits of the Kherson Art Museum for temporary storage and ensure their safety until they are returned to their rightful owner.” [5] The Art Newspaper highlights the close ties between Malgin and Putin, as well as Malgin’s vocal support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The “rightful owner” in the eyes of Russian-controlled Crimea may very well not be a Ukrainian museum, and, as of today, the works have yet to be returned.

The Kherson Art Museum in Ukraine, photographed here before the Russian invasion. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The fate of the Kherson Regional Art Museum is sadly similar to many other institutions and collections affected by the war. Around thirty museums throughout Ukraine have been the site of raids and looting under the supervision of Russian curators. [6] Russia has felt the effects of the feverish need for material propaganda from Ukraine as well. The art historian Zelfira Tregulova was fired from her position as director of the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow after she had “come under intense criticism from Russia’s hawkish proponents of the war in Ukraine due to the Tretyakov’s alleged resistance to the patriotic fervor that has engulfed the country’s elite.” [7] She was replaced by the daughter of a senior member of Russia’s Federal Security Service.

On the event of the one-year mark of the invasion, the exhibition “Ukraine: Connected Histories & Vibrant Cultures” will be opening at Tisch Library. It is organized by Prof. Alice I. Sullivan (Department of the History of Art and Architecture) and Anna Kijas (Lilly Music Library), in collaboration with faculty, staff, as well as undergraduate and graduate students at Tufts University, including members of the Ukrainian community on campus. This exhibition features the history and cultural heritage of Kyivan Rus and its function in the conflicts between Russia and Ukraine in the 20th and 21st centuries. Further, it will outline current efforts to study and preserve this rich cultural history that has been threatened and manipulated during the Russo-Ukranian conflicts. The exhibition will open March 6th, with a reception at 5 PM, in the Tisch Main Library Lobby.

Learn more about the exhibition and reception!


[1] “Operation Data Portal: Ukraine Refugee Situation,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, https://data.unhcr.org/en/situations/ukraine

[2] Acosta, Jim. “U.S., Other Powers Kick Russia out of G8,” CNN, March 24, 2014. https://www.cnn.com/2014/03/24/politics/obama-europe-trip/index.html

[3] Mick, Cristoph. “How Moscow Has Long Used the Historic Kyivan Rus State to Justify Expansionism,” The Conversation, March 8, 2022. https://theconversation.com/how-moscow-has-long-used-the-historic-kyivan-rus-state-to-justify-expansionism-178092

[4] Bailey, Martin. “Special Investigation: Serious Concerns Over Fate of Ukraine’s Museum Works Taken by Russians,” The Art Newspaper, February 1, 2023. https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2023/02/01/special-investigation-serious-concerns-over-the-fate-of-ukraines-museum-works-taken-by-russia

[5] Beardsworth, James. “Kherson Museum Art Collection Looted Ahead of Russian Retreat,” The Moscow Times, November 11, 2022. https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2022/11/10/kherson-museum-art-collection-looted-ahead-of-russian-retreat-a79342

[6] Geanous, Jacob. “Russian Art Curators Have Reportedly Helped Loot Dozens of Ukraine Museums,” New York Post, February 4, 2023. https://nypost.com/2023/02/04/russian-art-curators-have-raided-dozens-of-ukraine-museums/

[7] Ilyushina, Mary. “Russia Ousts Director of Elite Museum as Kremlin Demands Patriotic Art,” The Washington Post, February 9, 2023. https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2023/02/09/russia-tretyakov-gallery-director-ousted/

Article by Francesca Bisi

MA Candidate in Art History and Museum Studies, Tufts University

Weekly Job Roundup

Hello everyone, and welcome to this week’s roundup of exciting opportunities in museums! We do our best to collect the latest job openings, and please be sure to check last week’s roundup. For more opportunities, we recommend the following databases:

New England Museum Association Jobs
HireCulture – Jobs in the Humanities in Massachusetts
HistPres – Unique Historic Preservation Jobs
Museum Employment Resource Center
Job HQ – American Association of Museums
American Association of State and Local History Career Center







Conservator of Sculptures and 3D Objects, Museo de Arte de Ponce (Ponce, Puerto Rico)
Paper Conservator, Museo de Arte de Ponce (Ponce, Puerto Rico)

What’s Coming Up in the Art World in 2023

Happy New Year from the Museum Studies Blog!

As we look forward to 2023, here are a few of the amazing upcoming exhibitions that you should mark on your calendar. What shows are you most looking forward to?

Ningiukulu Teevee (2007) Shaman Revealed. Purchased with the assistance of the Joan Chalmers Inuit Art Purchase Fund, 2008. © Ningiukulu Teevee, courtesy Dorset Fine Arts. 2008/17.

Ningiukulu Teevee: Chronicles for the Curious
Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, Canada)
Opens January 14th, 2023
Curated by Wanda Nanibush (AGO)

Vitality and Continuity: Art in the Experiences of Anishinaabe, Inuit, and Pueblo Women
Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, USA)
January 21st, 2023 to January 6th, 2024

Ming Smith (1992) Womb. Courtesy of the artist. © Ming Smith.

Egon Schiele from the Collection of the Leopold Museum–Young Genius in Vienna 1900
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum (Tokyo, Japan)
January 26th to April 9th, 2023

Projects: Ming Smith
Studio Museum in Harlem (New York City, USA)
Curated by Thelma Golden (Studio Museum in Harlem) and Oluremi C. Onabanjo (MoMA)
February 4th to May 29th, 2023

Wook-kyung Choi, (1960s) Untitled (detail). © Wook-kyung Choi Estate and courtesy to Arte Collectum

Action, Gesture, Paint: Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940-70
Whitechapel Gallery (London, UK)
February 9th to May 7th, 2023
Curated by Laura Smith (Whitechapel)

Sofonisba Anguissola: Portraitist of the Renaissance
Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
February 11th to June 11th, 2023

Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age, 1952-1982
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, USA)
Curated by Leslie Jones (LACMA)
February 12th to July 2nd, 2023

Wangechi Mutu (2022) In Two Canoe. Courtesy the artist and Gladstone Gallery. © Wangechi Mutu

Painting Love in the Louvre Collections
National Art Center (Tokyo, Japan)
March 1st to June 12th, 2023

Wangechi Mutu: Intertwined
The New Museum (New York City, USA)
Curated by Margot Norton (The New Museum) Vivian Crockett
March 2nd to June 4th, 2023

Teresa del Pó (c. 1684) St. Sebastian. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett / Dietmar Katzeresa

Muse or Maestra? Women in the Italian Art World, 1400-1800
Kupferstichkabinett (Berlin, Germany)
May 8th to June 4th, 2023

The Ugly Duchess: Beauty and Satire in the Renaissance
The National Gallery (London, UK)
March 16th to June 11th, 2023

Katsushika Hokusai, South Wind, Clear Sky (Gaifū kaisei), also known as Red Fuji, from the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji (Fugaku sanjūrokkei) © The Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence
The Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, USA)
March 26th to July 16th, 2023
Curated by: Sarah E. Thompson

Musée d’Orsay (Paris, France)
March 28th to July 23rd, 2023
Curated by Laurence des Cars (Louvre Museum), Isolde Pludermacher (Musée d’Orsay), and Stéphane Guégan (Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie)

Juan de Pareja (1661) The Calling of Saint Matthew, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid. © Photographic Archive Museo Nacional del Prado

Juan de Pareja: Afro-Hispanic Painter
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City, USA)
April 3rd to July 16th, 2023
Curated by David Pullins (The Met) and Vanessa K. Valdés (CUNY)

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (2000) Untitled (Memory Map). © Jaune Quick-to-See Smith and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York City, USA)
April 19th to August 2023
Curated by Laura Phipps (Whitney) and Caitlin Chaisson

Lavinia Fontana: Trailblazer, Rule Breaker
National Gallery of Ireland (Dublin, Ireland)
May 6th to August 27th 2023
Curated by Aoife Brady (National Gallery of Ireland)

Menstrual products from various decades. © Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Museum Europäischer Kulturen / Christian Krug

Van Gogh and the Avant-Garde: The Modern Landscape
The Art Institute (Chicago, USA)
Curated by Jacquelyn N. Coutré (The Art Institute) and Bregje Gerritse (Van Gogh Museum)
May 14th to September 4th, 2023

Flow: The Exhibition about Menstruation
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Berlin, Germany)
June 10th, 2023 to June 10th, 2024

Artist Portrait with a Candle (A), from the series With Eyes Closed I See Happiness (2012) Marina Abramović. © Marina Abramović

Secessions: Klimt, Stuck, Liebermann
Alte Nationalgalerie (Berlin, Germany)
June 23rd to October 22nd, 2023

Marina Abramović
Royal Academy of Arts (London, UK)
September 23rd to December 10th, 2023

Japanese American-owned grocery store, Oakland, California (March 1942) Dorothea Lange. © National Gallery of Art

Degas and the Laundress: Women, Work, and Impressionism in Late Nineteenth Century Paris
Cleveland Museum of Art
October 8th to January 14th, 2023

Dorothea Lange: Seeing People
National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C., USA)
November 5th, 2023 to March 31st, 2024

Article by Francesca Bisi

MA Candidate in Art History and Museum Studies, Tufts University

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