Too Risky?

Florence masterpiece hits the road

Editorial Staff
May 7, 2009

In early May, Donatello's David, a key piece of Florence's Bargello museum‘s collection will be transported to Milan, where it will first be showcased at the Campionaria delle qualità italiane fair in Fieramilano city from May 7 to 10 and later remain in display through May 31. However, Florence daily Corriere fiorentino recently voiced discontent over what it calls the ‘dangerous' decision to ship the bronze north.


Critics maintain that such a journey would pose not only pose a physical risk to the priceless sculpture, but also a cultural risk in that Florence's Bargello museum will be without it main ace. They ask: Is it worth disappointing tourists to Florence, who will see a copy of Donatello's David and not the original? Is the fair in Milan worth all the effort and risk? 


The Campionaria delle qualità italiane in Milan is intended to showcase to the world the rich and varied nature of Italian identity and demonstrate the best Italy has to offer in terms of economic and creative excellence. Amid some controversy, Donatello's recently restored David was chosen by culture minister Sandro Bondi as the symbol for Italy and to announce the Made in Italy label as a major competitor in the global economy. But does the bronze truly represent national identity and economics, asks the author of an article published in the Corriere fiorentino, art historian Tommaso Montanari. 


The true essence, Montanari maintains, of Donatello's David can be ascertained only next to Verrocchio's David and Donatello's Judith, both located in Florence, and other Renaissance masterpieces on display in the city. It cannot be used to serve the culture ministry's recent aims to make profit-earning use of the country's vast historical and artistic patrimony, argues Montanari, nor can it be used to fulfill the ministry's latest cultural mission to bring Italy's greatest artworks to the people, instead of bringing people to see the art.


The David was also chosen so that more citizens could admire the masterwork. Expert restorers from Florence's Opificio delle Pietre Dure used state-of-the-art technology to bring the statue  back to its original splendor, and all Italians should have the chance to see the  improved bronze, says Bondi.


But if the decision to ship the David to Milan was understood as a way to celebrate the masterpiece and its recent restoration, and also to bring it closer to the Italian public, why, Montanari asks, must it be placed at the center of a commercially focused fair that highlights Italian competitiveness, innovation and craftsmanship?


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