The Florida Department of Education wants everyone to know: it’s okay to teach Florida students about Michelangelo’s renowned full-frontal nude statue David (1501–04).
“The statue of David has artistic and historical value. Florida encourages instruction on the classics and classical art, and would not prohibit its use in instruction,” Alex Lanfranconi, communications director for the Florida Department of Education, said in a statement first shared by Florida’s Voice.
Despite the international fame of the Renaissance masterpiece, David recently made headlines when a Florida principal was fired after parents complained about its inclusion in a lesson for a sixth grade class. One parent claimed the well-known work was “pornographic.”
Former principal Hope Carrasquilla told the press that the controversy over the teacher’s failure to inform parents ahead of time about the inclusion of David in the curriculum cost her the top job at Tallahassee Classical School. The chair of the school board insisted that other factors played into the decision to terminate Carrasquilla, but said that not warning parents about “potentially controversial” material like David was an “egregious mistake.”
The press had a field day with the incident, which comes on the heels of controversial educational legislation in Florida limiting classroom discussions of sexual orientation or gender identity. It also mirrored a 1990 episode of the Simpsons where parents campaigned against the arrival of the David at a local art museum.
But despite the recent spate of education-related laws passed by conservatives, the David remains fair game—naked parts and all—for students learning about Renaissance art.
Following Carrasquilla’s ouster, Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence, invited the educator to come to Italy to see the David in person. The Galleria dell’Accademia, where the artwork is on permanent display, has seen an uptick in visitors in response to the kerfuffle, with tourists posing for selfies with the 14-foot-tall statue.
“We are talking about the roots of Western culture, and David is the height, the height of beauty,” museum director Cecilie Hollberg told NPR.