Letter to Florentine Soprintendente Paolucci

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Il Ministro On.le Giuliano Urbani
Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali
Via del Collegio Romano, 27
00186 Roma

29 June 2003

Professor Antonio Paolucci
Soprintendente al polo museale fiorentina
Soprintendenza per i Beni Artistici e Storici
per le Provincie di Firenze, Pistoia e Prato
via Ninna, 5
50122 Firenze

Dear Professor Paolucci,

We the undersigned, art historians and art scholars of Italian Art, are especially concerned over the fate of Michelangelo’s David housed in Florence’s Accademia.

Over the years and specifically since September of 2002, the David has been undergoing tests to evaluate its condition and to determine the appropriate course for a cleaning. Far from achieving a consensus, the examinations have produced two publicly expressed, divergent opinions. One position is that of Florence’s Opificio delle Pietre Dure which is espoused by Franca Falletti, Director of the Accademia and coordinator of the restoration. The proposed cleaning would entail the use of wet poultices which suck out the dirt and other particles, producing a “”clean”” surface. On the other hand, Agnese Parronchi, the restorer who has been allocated the assignment, considers that method too severe and instead advocates
a spot-by-spot treatment using a “”dry method,”” essentially an elaborate dusting, employing soft hair brushes and an

On the other hand, Agnese Parronchi, the restorer who has been allocated the assignment, considers that method too severe and instead advocates a spot-by-spot treatment using a “”dry method,”” essentially an elaborate dusting, employing soft hair brushes and an eraser.

Parronchi, whose resume includes the cleaning of Michelangelo’s Medici Tombs in San Lorenzo and his Madonna of the Stairs and the Battle Relief in Casa Buonarroti, has steadfastly advocated her minimally invasive approach, based upon 260 separate studies she conducted on the surface of the David.

The two positions so far have proven to be irreconcilable, and Parronchi resigned rather than carry out the procedure according to the technique required by the Opificio.

Given the genuine conflict of methodologies and the fact recognized by all parties that there is no imminent danger to the statue, we the undersigned believe that any decision to proceed should be postponed until an independent commission, established either by the Office of the Soprintendenza of Florence or the Minister of Culture in Rome, can evaluate the proposals and other ones, the past history of results, and the goals of the intervention.

Despite the imminent 500th anniversary of the unveiling of the David in 1504 and despite the planned commencement of the project in September 2003, the issue is important enough to warrant further careful evaluation and in an atmosphere of total transparency.


James Ackerman, Harvard University
Laurie Adams, CUNY,
Francis Ames-Lewis, Birkbeck College, University of London
Wayne Andersen, MIT
Gail Aronow, New York
Marco Dezzi Bardeschi, Milan, Politecnic
Paula Barocchi, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa
Paul Barolsky, University of Virginia
James H. Beck, Columbia University, New York
Daniele Benati, Univ. G. D’Annunzio, Chieti
Mary Bergstein, Rhode Island School of Design
Ben Binstock, NYU
David Carrier, Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Institute of Art
Giuseppe Centauro, University of Florence
Marco Cianchi, Accademia delle Belle Arti di Firenze
Lucilla Bardeschi Ciulich, Florence
Joseph Connors, Columbia University
Michael Daley, London
Mary Edwards, Pratt Institute
Yael Even, University of Missouri-St. Louis
Massimo Ferretti, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa
Mina Gregori, University of Florence
Rab Hatfield, Syracuse University, Florence
Charles Hope, Warburg Institute, London
Kiyoshi Ishikawa, Aici Industrial University
Evelyn Karet, Assumption College
Gian Claudio Macchiarella, University of Venice
Joseph Manca, Rice University
Maria Teresa Matteucci, Univ. of Bologna
Anita Moskowitz, SUNY at Stony Brook
Giorgio Muratore, University of Rome
Masao Noguchi, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music
Carlo Pedretti, UCLA
Piero Pierotti, University of Pisa
Elinor Richter, CUNY
Jonathan Riess, University of Cincinnati
David Rosand, Columbia University
Piero Scarpellini, University of Perugia
Simon Schama, Columbia Universit
Gary Schwartz, CODART, Amsterdam
Enzo Settisoldi, Florence
Vittorio Sgarbi, Ferrara
Philippe Sorel, Carnavalet Museum, Paris
John Spike, Florence
Leo Steinberg, New York (University of Pennsylvania)
Richard C. Trexler, Univ of New York at Binghamton
Alessandro Vezzosi, Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci
William Wallace, Washington University in St. Louis
Flavia Zisa, Siracusa
Mark Zucker, Louisiana State University

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