Beauty or Pornography?

moveable fig leaf used to cover David's genitalia when Queen Victoria visited the museum.
Queen Victoria was as shocked as the Florida parent when she viewed the plaster cast of Michelangelo’s David in a London museum. Curators had a fig leaf made that could be hung over the offending member when the Queen visited.

A school principal recently lost her job at the Tallahassee Classical School (a corporate charter school supported by tax money) because three parents objected to class materials presented by a teacher.

Introducing the children to the artistic masterpieces of the Renaissance, the teacher included a picture of what is perhaps the most famous and representative piece of Renaissance sculpture:  Michelangelo’s statue of the Biblical David as he prepares to face Goliath.

One of the characteristics of Renaissance art is the naturalistic depiction of the human body. This David is a beautiful young man. His nakedness is not simply a matter of the prevailing artistic fashion. It possesses a spiritual dimension. He stands ready to take on a ferocious enemy of his people, armed only with a shepherd’s sling and his faith in God.

Yet, one of the parents equated the statue with pornographic material.

Pornography—like beauty—is in the eye of the beholder

pornography: (noun) The explicit description or exhibition of sexual subjects or activity in literature, painting, films, etc., in a manner intended to stimulate erotic rather than aesthetic feelings; printed or visual material containing this.

I fail to see how the 17-foot-high marble statue of a naked man who is just standing there would “stimulate erotic feelings.” And I suspect that most sixth-graders are aware that boys and girls have different parts. The sight of the naked Bible hero might well invite a momentary spate of giggles, but probably not constitute a corrupting moral influence.

A board headed by “serial entrepreneur” Barney Bishop III oversees the Tallahassee Classical School. He told CNN that, although he thinks the statue is beautiful, “we are going to make sure the concept of parental rights is supreme in Florida and at our charter school.”

Parental rights do not extend to curriculum

In an interview with NPR, Bishop asserted that parents “are entitled to decide whether any topic, any subject, any use of particular sensitive words are going to be discussed in the classroom.”

Echoing Bishop’s views are legislators who have begun drafting oppressive laws targeted at the public school curriculum in a bogus appeal to “parental rights.”

Parental rights are real and constitutionally protected. However, in regard to the public schools, these rights do not include the right to dictate curriculum. They do include the right to homeschool or send their children to a private school of their choice.

Renaissance masterpieces

It is a historical fact that for many Renaissance artistic masterpieces, clothing is optional.

Ten most famous paintings of the Renaissance: Mona Lisa (DaVinci), Primavera (Botticelli), Creation of Adam (Michelangelo), The Last Supper (DaVinci), The School of Athens (Raphael), The Kiss of Judas (Bondone), The Last Judgement (Michelangelo), Sistine Madonna (Raphael), Assumption of the Virgin (Titian), The Birth of Venus (Botticelli).

Ten most famous sculptures of the Renaissance: David (Michelangelo), The Pieta (Michelangelo), David (Donatello), Judith and Holofernes (Donatello), Perseus with the Head of Medusa (Cellini), Moses (Michelangelo), Christ and St. Thomas (Verrocchio), Penitent Magdalene (Donatello), Hercules and Cacus (Bandinelli), Abduction of a Sabine Woman (Giambologna).