Michelangelo's David is at risk of collapsing under its own weight, researchers from the National Research Council (CNR) and the University of Florence warned after performing tests on plaster replicas of the statue.
The study was published in the Journal of Cultural Heritage, where it was noted that "micro-fractures are visible in the left ankle and the carved tree stump behind David’s right leg (which bears part of the statue's weight), threatening the stability of the sculpture."
The tiny cracks, the statue's weight (5.5 tonnes), its precarious pose and poor-quality marble all contribute to put it at risk in the event of an earthquake, or even just rumblings from maintenance inside the Accademia Gallery, where the statue is located, or from traffic and road construction outside.
The cracks in the left ankle and in the tree stump have been covered up with plaster over the years, but have a tendency to reappear.
It has been suggested that the David should be moved to an earthquake-proof underground room, or to a specially-built museum outside the city center.
The David was moved to the Accademia in 1873, after more than three centuries in the elements in Piazza della Signoria, where it leaned forward at a dangerous angle, developing those “weak ankles,” researchers believe.
A representative for Florence's museum authority, speaking to Agence France-Presse, has said there is "nothing dramatic about the findings." "Even if there is an earthquake of 5.0 or 5.5 on the Richter scale, Florence will stay in one piece. And David would be the last to fall," the representative told Agence France-Presse.