Michelangelo’s David ‘held secret weapon in right hand’

Saturday, November 20, 2010

WASHINGTON - New research has kicked up a controversy, suggesting that Michelangelo’s David might have held a secret weapon in his overly large right hand.

“Bulging with veins, the right hand is holding what remains of a terrible weapon used in antiquity until the 17th century,” Discovery News quoted art historians Sergio Risaliti and Francesco Vossilla as writing in the book ‘L’Altro David’.

Called a fustibal, or staff-sling,the weapon was used to throw stones. Co-incidentally, the Bible says that when David went to fight Goliath, he took up his shepherd’s staff, five smooth stones and his sling.

Of these, only the latter is represented in Michelangelo’s sculpture, as David holds the pouch of the sling in his left hand, above his shoulder.

Crossing his back down to the right hand, the straps of the rather long sling appear to be attached to a mysterious object.

“The staff was perfectly fitting a statue originally commissioned for Florence Cathedral. It would have rendered the biblical depiction of the shepherd boy,” Risaliti said.

According to the researchers, the weapon was also well known when Michelangelo (1475 -1564) begun sculpting his David in 1501. The fustibal also appears in the artist’s Lorenzo Ghiberti’s work, leading to speculation that Michelangelo may have been influenced by his artwork.

Because David was transformed into a symbol of the republican freedom, the staff was never mounted on the handle because it didn’t fit with the political meaning of the statue.

Other scholars are skeptical about the staff sling theory. According to American art historian Lynn Catterson, David is simply holding the handle portion of the sling.

“It acts as a brace or buttress, to protect the fingers which are a very fragile portion of the sculpture,” Catterson said. (ANI)

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