This Italian icon suddenly looks different

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For more than 500 years, Michelangelo’s David sculpture in Florence has remained unchanged, a marble icon of masculinity and one of the most famous works of art in the world.

But as Italy emerges from the pandemic, David has acquired a new look.

A new lighting system has revolutionized the appearance of the famous statue, small details visible for the first time in its history.

“A few days ago, I noticed muscles in my body that I had never seen before,” says Lucia Lazic, a guide who visits the Accademia gallery most days.

“I was like, ‘What the hell? How have I never seen this before?'” The lighting is much better at David’s.

Academy director Cecilie Hollberg said in a statement that the lighting has “changed the visual perception of the artworks,” telling CNN that David’s marble looks “whiter” and the details are “more impressive.”

The lighting – which was completed in September as part of the works presented this week – aimed to bring “the dynamism of the sun” to the Tribune Hall, where the statue sits under the dome light.

LED spotlights were installed in a circle above the statue to “completely surround David and leave the rest of the space behind.”

The color of the light changes imperceptibly during the day, while the spotlights have a different warmth, allowing visitors to gain a new perspective with each step around the statue.

David’s new look is part of a wider renovation of the museum, which was the second most visited in Italy in 2019.

The Galleria dei Prigioni or “corridor of prisoners” – named after Michelangelo’s four half-finished sculptures of prisoners of war, which share the space with his other two works – has also been illuminated, with several spotlights placed on each sculpture. .

“The prisoners looked yellow, and David looked white. Now they’re the same color,” Hollberg told CNN.

“Now you can see all the chisel marks on them.”

It also has an energy-efficient new lighting system that “restores the right balance of light and dark to the work”. Hollberg says the gallery should use about 80% less electricity than in previous years.

It’s not just the header jobs that look different. In several other rooms of the gallery, the beige walls have been painted with the colors previously painted.

The Sala del Colosso, the first room of the gallery, is now bright blue, and was built in the 13th and 14th centuries.

By Guido Cozzi

By Guido Cozzi

Sala Colosso in the Accademia Hall

And the new ubiquitous lighting has transformed the paintings from things that tourists used to run away from on their way to David, to something unmissable.

“One regular visitor said, ‘Where was all that detail? We’ve never seen it,'” Hollberg told CNN. “In a Domenico Ghirlandaio painting now you can see all the gold dots. [saints’] the halos Before, the beige walls equaled the gold. At another time, you think you can pick pearls out of the box, when you couldn’t see them at all.

“My job is to give value and visibility to all the works. Each work here is a masterpiece, but the works die on a beige background: they are lifted and supported by color. I want to give them what they deserve.”

The renovation of the Gipsoteca has completed the renovation of the museum.

In the past, the lighting was so bad that some paintings, like the ones next to David, were barely visible. “Before it was all dark, you couldn’t see them; nobody stopped,” Hollberg said. On one occasion, he saw a guide shining the flashlight of his phone on another painting, hoping to show it to visitors.

Tourists have already changed their behavior, he said.

“Now they stop and look. They are not all in front of David as before. I followed the groups, and they cut through the Sala del Colosso and never stopped. Now I see that room full of visitors; the crowd is redistributing.”

Lazic, a guide with Elite Italian Experience, agrees: “More people stop at Sala del Colosso.”

The renovation works that started before the pandemic and started this year have ended with the renovation of the Gipsoteca. The plaster cast gallery was another place in the dam. That is if it was open: without windows or air conditioning, it closed at noon in the summer.

But now with air conditioning, powder blue walls and a new design of 414 plaster casts – mostly by sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini, whose work can be found in the Louvre, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Metropolitan Museum of Art – it’s a place to stop.

Hollberg says the locals are also starting to appreciate the museum. “It used to be a space for tourists, but the Florentines are rediscovering it. We introduced the last resisters with a series of concerts.’

Italian Culture Minister Dario Franceschini called the reopening of the Gipsoteca an “important step”… [the Accademia] into the century”.

He added: “The works carried out throughout the building have allowed important innovations in the system, transforming the museum created at the end of the 19th century into a modern hall, without distorting it.”