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Principal who lost job for showing Michelangelo's 'David' in class invited to see sculpture in Italy

The principal of the school was compelled to resign over the complaints of some parents even describing the statue as 'pornographic.'

Principal who lost job for showing Michelangelo's 'David' in class invited to see sculpture in Italy
Image Source: (L to R) Getty Images/Franco Origlia; Getty Images/Cort Room; Getty Images/Franco Origlia

Editor's note: This article was originally published on March 30, 2023. It has since been updated.

Michelangelo's renowned sculpture, David, is widely recognized as a symbol of the Renaissance and is among the most well-known artworks in history. It is the Biblical figure David's representation, depicted as a nude male standing at a height of 17 ft and made of marble. It is a celebrated piece of art that attracts several tourists to Florence, Italy each year. However, a Florida charter school has been embroiled in controversy over it. During a compulsory lesson on Renaissance art at the Classical School in Tallahassee, an image of the marble statue was displayed to sixth-grade pupils, resulting in several parents complaining that they were unaware of the image being shown in class, reported My Modern Met.

Image Source: Getty Images/Carl Court
Image Source: Getty Images/Carl Court


One parent went so far as to describe the iconic piece of art as "pornographic." Consequently, the school principal, Hope Carrasquilla, was compelled to step down over the numerous complaints of the parents. However, the Italian art experts were completely shocked by such a reaction to the iconic statue and an essential piece of history. The story has gained widespread attention both in the United States and Italy. The sculpture of David is currently exhibited at the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence. The mayor of the city, Dario Nardella, has invited the former principal of the school to visit and see the artwork in person. He also said, "To confuse art with pornography is simply ridiculous."


Cecilie Hollberg, director of Galleria dell'Accademia, is also bewildered by these complaints. She told BBC, "Talking about the Renaissance without showing the David, an undisputed icon of art and culture and of that historical period, would make no sense." The David statue is widely recognized as an Italian Renaissance masterpiece and a representation of humanist ideals. It has been exhibited at the Galleria dell'Accademia since 1873. Hollberg expressed her surprise at the notion that the statue could be viewed as pornographic, arguing that such a belief indicates a lack of comprehension of not only the Bible but also Western culture.

The school states that the annual lesson on Renaissance art includes the display of David, as well as Botticelli's The Birth of Venus and Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam, all of which contain nudity. Usually, a letter is sent to parents ahead of time, giving them the option to exclude their child from the lesson if they find the imagery unsuitable. However, this year the letter was not sent, which Carrasquilla attributed to "a series of miscommunications." This lack of communication led to controversy. Carrasquilla told HuffPost that one parent was "point-blank upset," saying, "her child should not be viewing those pieces."


The charter school principal was given an ultimatum by the board, either resign or be fired. She had held the position for less than a year and was the third principal appointed since the school opened in the fall of 2020. Although she acknowledges that there were preexisting issues between her and the board, she believes that the art history lesson was a significant factor in her being compelled to resign.

Image Source: Getty Images/Franco Origlia
Image Source: Getty Images/Franco Origlia


According to school board chair Barney Bishop, the problem did not lie with the David sculpture itself, as it had been shown in previous years. Instead, the issue for the board was that the proper procedures to inform parents were not followed. He told CNN, "We aren't trying to ban the picture. We think it's beautiful, but we are going to make sure the concept of parental rights is supreme in Florida and at our charter school."


The timing of the David sculpture controversy coincides with the signing of several Republican-backed bills by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis aimed at shaping K-12 education in the state, potentially for his run for the presidency in 2024. One such bill is the controversial Parental Rights' in Education Bill, which opponents have dubbed the "Don't Say Gay" bill. The bill limits the inclusion of curriculum on sexual orientation or gender identity that is deemed "not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate." Critics argue that this policy could lead to the marginalization of LGBTQ children.

Rick Steves, a renowned travel writer, seems to view the David controversy as a regrettable continuation of DeSantis' ideology. He wrote in a tweet, "Presumed Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis’s stance against “woke ideology” in public schools is just the latest example of the American insistence on seeing great art and the human body as somehow dirty."


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