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For more than 500 years, Michelangelo’s sculpture of David in Florence has stood unchanged, the marble icon of masculinity and one of the most famous works of art in the world.
But as Italy emerges from the pandemic, the David has a whole new look.
A new lighting system has revolutionized the look of the famous statue, with small details visible for the first time in its history.
“A few days ago I noticed muscles on my body that I had never seen before,” says Lucia Lazic, a guide who visits the Accademia Gallery almost every day.
“I said, ‘What the hell? How come I’ve never seen this?’ The lighting is much better in the David.”
Cecilie Hollberg, director of the Academy, said in a statement that the lighting has “changed the visual perception of the works of art,” telling CNN that David’s marble appears “whiter” and that the details are “more visible”.
The lighting, completed in September as part of the works unveiled this week, aimed to bring the “dynamism of sunlight” to the Tribune room where the statue is kept under a vaulted skylight.
LED spotlights were installed in a circle above the statue, allowing them to “completely envelop the David and leave the rest of the space in the background.”
The color of the light changes imperceptibly during the day, while the spotlights have different warmth, allowing visitors to gain a new perspective with each step around the statue.
The new David is part of a broader renovation of the museum, which was the second most visited in Italy in 2019.
The Galleria dei Prigioni, or “prisoners’ corridor,” named after Michelangelo’s four semi-finished sculptures of prisoners of war, which share space with two of his other works, has also had its lighting turned on, with several spotlights pointing to each sculpture. .
“Before, the prisoners looked yellow and David was white. Now they are the same color,” Hollberg told CNN.
“Now you can see every chisel mark on them.”
The new lighting system, which “returns the works to the proper balance of chiaroscuro and color,” is also energy efficient. Hollberg claims that the gallery should consume around 80% less electricity than in previous years.
It’s not just the works of the headlines that look different. Several of the gallery’s other rooms have painted their previously beige walls in colors that maximize those of the paintings.
The Sala del Colosso, the gallery’s first room, is now a bright blue, while the 13th and 14th century rooms are a pale green, chosen to highlight the gold used in most of the paintings.
And new lighting everywhere has transformed the paintings from things that tourists used to breeze past on the way to David, to must-sees in their own right.
“A regular visitor said, ‘Where was all this detail? We never saw it,’” Hollberg told CNN. “In a painting by Domenico Ghirlandaio you can now see all the golden dots in the halos (of the saints). Before, beige walls flattened gold. In another, it seems as if you could pluck the pearls from the painting, before you couldn’t see them at all.
“My job is to give value and visibility to all the works. Each of the works here is a masterpiece, but the works die against a beige background: they need to be enhanced and supported by color. “I want to give them what they deserve.”
In the past, the lighting was so bad that some paintings were barely visible, such as those next to the David. “Before it was all at night, you couldn’t see them, no one stopped,” Hollberg said. He once saw a guide shining the flashlight on his phone at another painting in an attempt 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’ve followed groups and they used to go through the Colosso Room and never stop. Now I see that room full of visitors: the crowd is being redistributed.”
Lazic, Elite Italian Experience guide, agrees: “There are more and more people stopping at the Sala del Colosso.”
The renovations, which began just before the pandemic and which began this year, have ended with the remodeling of the Gypsoteca. The plaster gallery was another quick stop. That was if it was open: without open windows or air conditioning, in summer it closed at noon.
But now, with air conditioning, pale blue walls and a new design for the 414 plaster casts (mostly made by sculptor Lorenzo Bartolini, whose works are in the Louvre, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and the Metropolitan Museum of Art) is a place to stay.
Hollberg says locals are starting to appreciate the museum, too. “It used to be a space for tourists, but Florentines are rediscovering it. “We reunited the last resisters with a series of concerts.”
Dario Franceschini, Italy’s culture minister, called the Gipsoteca’s reopening “an important step… to bring (the Academy) into the 21st century.”
And he adds: “The works throughout the building have allowed important innovations in the systems, transforming a museum conceived at the end of the 19th century into a modern place without distorting it.”