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Diatribe: Putting Underwear On Michelangelo’s David.

02/07/2013

DavidInJapanI’ve never understood why many people have so many hang ups when it comes to nudity.  The human form is an amazing and beautiful creation and I think it’s awful that so many of us are taught, from an early age, to be ashamed or embarrassed of their bodies.  Of course, it’s important to distinguish the difference between nudity and pornography.  Nudity can be extremely artistic.  However, as is the case with most anything else, there are appropriate times and places.

Apparently, some residents of the small Japanese town of Okuizumo don’t believe their public park is an appropriate place to display a sixteen-foot tall replica of Michelangelo’s David and they’ve suggested the addition of underpants to the naked masterpiece.

The statue, as well as a replica of the Greek treasure Venus de Milo, was erected suddenly last summer as a donation from a businessman in the area.  The original David, created from Carrara marble during the years 1501-1504 has become one of the most recognized works of Renaissance sculpture … a symbol of both strength and youthful human beauty.

“Some people have told the town’s legislators that toddlers are afraid of the statues because they are so big and they appeared unexpectedly over the summer.  They are statues of unclothed humans, and such pieces of art work are very rare in our area. Some people apparently said the statues might not be good for their children.” – Yoji Morinaga, Okuizumo Town Official

Cultural differences aside, I think it’s important to expose children to fine art and famous works.  I’m hopeful that, over time, the Japanese people will come to appreciate the value of the sculptures, which could be useful in school art classes or may become a sightseeing attraction.  While many locals have welcomed the new cultural additions to the mountainside town, others have asked that the statue wear underpants to preserve the subject’s modesty.

This wouldn’t be the first time that David’s delicate parts have been hidden from view.  The plaster cast of the statue at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum has a detachable plaster fig leaf which is displayed nearby.  The fig leaf was created in response to Queen Victoria’s shock upon first viewing the statue’s nudity and was routinely hung on the front of the figure before royal visits using two strategically placed hooks.

While I’m certainly not opposed to seeing a perfect male specimen in his underwear, Michelangelo’s David has been nude for more than five centuries and should stay that way.  Moving the statue to another location where it could be appreciated rather than hiding parts of it would be a much better solution.

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6 Comments
  1. I’d expected to find the story coming from some city in the US–because we really are kind of provincial here–so I was surprised to see it coming from Japan.

    I’d thought they were more progressive than that.

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    • I thought the same thing at first. This sounded to me like something that would happen in Alabama or Mississippi. But, apparently, this is a small town on a Japanese mountainside. I imagine people in Japan’s bigger cities don’t generally think like this.

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  2. They should erect statues they can display without alteration. There are plenty of artworks that aren’t nudes. If they’re going to display the David, they should display him in all his glory. I wonder if we could trade them our Forrest statue for their David. 😉 At least that way we could talk about nudity in the public sphere for a while instead of re-hashing our civil war conversations.

    When I had young children, some of their friends’ mothers pasted construction paper over certain places in their art books. I still don’t understand that.

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    • I absolutely agree. The statue should be removed before it is altered in any way. The addition of underwear is just stupid. I imagine the businessman put a lot of thought into which statues he would donate. Perhaps he selected David in hopes that healthy conversations would begin in the town.

      If I had to guess, I’d say that your friends’ mothers covered those pictures because they didn’t want to have an “uncomfortable conversation” with their children. Parents today continue to avoid these conversations and, sadly, do their children a disservice as a result. Seriously … if a parent can’t talk to their child about nudity, and answer questions truthfully and with respect, there’s no way that they’ll discuss the details of a healthy, safe and responsible sex life.

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  3. This post just makes me want to sing “Let the Eagle Soar”

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