Please complete the form to email this item.

Cast - Fig Leaf for David

Fig Leaf for David

  • Object:

    Cast

  • Place of origin:

    England, Great Britain (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1857 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    D. Brucciani & Co. (possibly, makers)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plaster cast

  • Museum number:

    REPRO.1857A-161

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

  • Download image

This fig-leaf was hung on the David on the occasion of visits by royal ladies. It was last used in the time of Queen Mary (1867-1953). According to anecdotal information, on her first encounter with the cast of 'David', Queen Victoria was so shocked by his nudity that a firm suggestion was made that something has to be done. Consequently, the correctly proportioned fig leaf was created and stored in readiness for any visit the Queen might make, for which occasions it was hung on the figure from two strategically implanted hooks.
The Queen was not alone in her objection to David's nudity. In 1903 a Mr. Dobson protested to the museum about the nude male statuary displayed: "One can hardly designate these figures as 'art'!, if it is, it is a very objectionable form of art."
Tin fig leaves had been used in the early years of the Museum on other nude statuary but, along with the British Museum, the authorities at South Kensington dismissed later objections, noting that "The antique casts gallery has been very much used by private lady teachers for the instruction of young girl students and none of them have ever complained even directly." The fig leave is currently displayed in a case attached to the back of the pedestal for David in the east Cast Court.

Physical description

Plaster fig Leaf for the cast of the figure of Michelangelo's "David"

Place of Origin

England, Great Britain (probably, made)

Date

ca. 1857 (made)

Artist/maker

D. Brucciani & Co. (possibly, makers)

Materials and Techniques

Plaster cast

Dimensions

Height: 40 cm, Width: 30 cm, Depth: 17 cm, Weight: 3 kg

Object history note

Acquired in 1857, further details of acquisition unrecorded.

Historical context note

This fig-leaf was hung on the David on the occasion of visits by royal ladies. It was last used in the time of Queen Mary (1867-1953). According to anecdotal information, on her first encounter with the cast of 'David', Queen Victoria was so shocked by his nudity that a firm suggestion was made that something has to be done. Consequently, the correctly proportioned fig leaf was created and stored in readiness for any visit the Queen might make, for which occasions it was hung on the figure from two strategically implanted hooks.
The Queen was not alone in her objection to David's nudity. In 1903 a Mr. Dobson protested to the museum about the nude male statuary displayed: "One can hardly designate these figures as 'art'!, if it is, it is a very objectionable form of art."
Tin fig leaves had been used in the early years of the Museum on other nude statuary but, along with the British Museum, the authorities at South Kensington dismissed later objections, noting that "The antique casts gallery has been very much used by private lady teachers for the instruction of young girl students and none of them have ever complained even directly." The fig leave is currently displayed in a case attached to the back of the pedestal for David in the east Cast Court.

Descriptive line

Fig Leaf for David, plaster, perhaps by the firm of D.Brucciani & Co., probably England, ca. 1857

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Baker, Malcolm and Richardson, Brenda, eds. A Grand Design : The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum. London: V&A Publications, 1997. 431 p., ill. ISBN 1851773088.
The Museum's cast collection developed through systematic acquisition as well as by less conventional means. The acquisition of the cast of Michelangelo's David is an example of the latter (fig.77). From the marble original by Michelangelo
(1475-1564) in the Accademia di Belle Arti, Florence, the cast - eighteen feet in height - was delivered to South Kensington in February 1857 and was installed in the newly completed ""Brompton Boilers"", the first permanent buildings on the South Kensington site. Henry Cole noted in his diary on 21st February 1857 that at 4:30 that afternoon the legs of David were erected ""not without jeopardy"" in the Educational Museum housed in the Brompton Boilers (see fig.22). The enormous cast was thus placed in the centre of the Art Museum and appears with its fig leaf in place in a photograph of 1859 (see fig.23) amid both originals and reproductions of major European art. It was subsequently moved to the Architectural Courts, where in 1920
(see fig.18) it was shown in front of the electrotype copy Ghiberti's Gates of Paradise, while the cast of the Bruges Madonna (cat.27) was displayed to the side of the Pisano pulpit. In this way some of the key canonical works in the history of Italian Renaissance art could be viewed together.
Inappropriate as it may seem, the cast of David was presented to Queen Victoria by the grand duke of Tuscany as a peace offering after he had vetoed the export of a painting by Ghirlandaio which the National Gallery had sought to acquire. The Queen received no advance notification of the gift, and the cast was immediately directed to the Foreign Office and then on to South Kensington. In 1857 the Art Journal commented on the arrival of the David cast: ""The original does not appear to have added to the great masters reputation in his own
country nor will the cast of it in this."" That a sketch in wax was also in the Museum's collection suggested ""that any deficiencies that may exist in the statue do not arise from want of study."" The ""sketch"" referred to is the wax model bought by the Museum from the Gherardini collection in 1854; although ascribed to Michelangelo at the time of its acquisition, and then thought to be a preparatory study for David, it has since been removed from the sculptor's oeuvre.
According to anecdotal information, on her first encounter with the cast of David, Queen Victoria was so shocked by his nudity that a firm suggestion was made that something should be done. Consequently the correctly proportioned fig leaf was created and stored in readiness for any visit Queen Victoria might make to the Museum, for which occasions it was hung on the figure from two strategically implanted hooks. The fig leaf may have been provided by the casting workshop of D.Brucciani & Co., which had obtained a mould for David in the same year as the Museum acquired its cast. Among the many items subsequently available for purchase from Brucciani's gallery was a large fig leaf. The Queen was not alone in her objection to the nudity of David. In 1903 a Mr Dobson protested to the Museum about the nude male statuary displayed: ""One can hardly designate these figures as 'art'!; if it is, it is a very objectionable form of art."" Tin fig leaves had been used in the early years of the Museum on other nude statuary but, along with the British Museum, the authorities at South Kensington dismissed later objections, noting that ""The antique casts gallery has been very much used by private lady teachers for the instruction of young girl students and none have ever complained even indirectly"". The fig leaf is currently displayed in a case attached to the back of the pedestal for David in the east Cast Court and was last used in the time of Queen Mary (1867-1953).

DIANE BILBEY

Exhibition History

Give & Take (Serpentine Gallery 30/01/2001-01/04/2001)
A Grand Design - The Art of the Victoria and Albert Museum (Victoria & Albert Museum 12/10/1999-16/01/2000)

Materials

Plaster

Techniques

Casting

Subjects depicted

Leaf (plant material); Fig leaf

Categories

Sculpture

Collection code

SCP

Download image
Qr_O85428
Ajax-loader