David’s Broken Arm

During an anti-Medici rebellion on April 26, 1527, rioters occupied Florence’s Palazio Vecchio while soldiers battered the doors. The occupiers threw furniture off the parapets to repel soldiers on the ground. A bench tumbled down and struck the left arm of the statue of Michelangelo’s David, breaking it off in three pieces.

Giorgio Vasari, 16th Century biographer of the artists, tells the story. The pieces remained on the ground for days while fighting continued in the Piazza della Signoria. That is, until two boys worked their way through the brawling mob and soldiers to gather up the pieces. While most modern accounts say a new arm was carved and reattached to David, Vasari’s account claims the pieces were eventually reattached to the sculpture with copper nails.

Vasari also claims he was one of the two boys, “…who chlldren as they were, advanced into the Piazza without thinking of the dangers to which they thus exposed themselves, and from the midst of the soldiers on guard they gathered up the three pieces of that arm…”

The sculpture was eventually moved indoors to the Accademia in 1873, so the David that now stands besided the Palazzo Vecchio is a copy.

Other mishaps against the original include the following:

1512 damage to the base by lightning

· 1813 Broken finger on right hand.

· 1843 Broken toe.

· 1991 A disturbed Italian artist attacks the toes on the left foot with a hammer, saying he had been instructed to do so by La Bella Nana, the exquisitely beautiful model who posed for the 16th Century Venetian painter, Paolo Veronese.


11 responses to “David’s Broken Arm

  1. i do not understand the drive to mutilate beauty. sigh.

  2. Greetings! I found your site from the comment that you left on my Vasari post. What a great blog! It’s interesting to look at the damage that the “David” has undergone. The 1991 episode reminds me of when Lazlo Toth attacked Michelangelo’s “Pieta” in 1972 (see here). Sigh – hopefully disturbed people will leave the rest of Michelangelo’s works alone.

  3. This is an excellent post and may be one that you should followed up to see what goes on

    A friend mailed this link the other day and I’m eagerly hoping for your next article.

  4. Loved this post! Honestly, that La Bella Nana is such a bad influence.

  5. Peter Yorkoski

    Yes, why destroy any artwork- ask your self why we have become complacent and do not ask the same of the “Perfect art” ————–the Human being- why have we become desensitized to this.

    Inanimate objects vs human creation—ask yourself WHY???

  6. I am doing (another) post about David. I went searching for info about the broken arm, and stumbled on your blog… so I figured I’d just give you credit for the info. Hope you don’t mind.

    • Thanks, Jim. By the way, there is a wonderful new book out about David. “From Marble to Flesh, The Biography of Michelangelo’s David” by Victor Coonin.

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