Me on Derrida on Aristotle and Michelangelo

by Andrea Elizabeth

It’s not just about David in the marble, but also about the chips that fell, that were swept into the landfill, that ended up under a parking lot.

A feminist would put something else of David’s under a parking lot.

I would have taken less of the chips away.

Fig leaf for the cast of Michelangelo’s David, Plaster, Perhaps by the firm of D. Brucciani & Co, About 1857, Museum no 1857-161:A

The story goes that on her first encounter with the cast of David at the Museum, Queen Victoria was so shocked by the nudity that a proportionally accurate fig leaf was commissioned. It was then kept in readiness for any royal visits, when it was hung on the figure using two strategically placed hooks. In a photograph of the Art Museum taken around 1857-9 the figure of David is shown wearing a fig leaf. The fig leaf is likely to have been made by the Anglo-Italian firm D. Brucciani & Co., based in London.

Male nudity was then a contentious issue. A letter sent to the Museum in 1903 by a Mr Dobson complained about the statuary displayed: ‘One can hardly designate these figures as “art” !: if it is, it is a very objectionable form of art.’

In relation to Mr Dobson’s complaint, the then director Caspar Purdon Clarke noted: ‘The antique casts gallery has been very much used by private lady teachers for the instruction of young girl students and none of them has ever complained even indirectly’ (museum papers, 1903).

Tin fig leaves had been used during the early years of the Museum on other nude male statuary, but later authorities at South Kensington were dismissive of objections. Nowadays, the fig leaf is no longer displayed on the David. Instead, it is housed in its own case on the back of the plinth of the figure.

So much for nowadays.