Imagine you are peacefully admiring artwork within the serene setting of one of the world’s finest museums. Suddenly, a man pulls a hammer from his jacket and begins pummeling priceless works of art. According to a 1991 article in the New York Times, this exact scenario occurred in Florence, Italy at the Gallery of the Academy of Florence.
David’s Broken Toe
A jobless, 47 -year-old Sicilian man by the name of Piero Cannata smuggled a hammer into the museum and smashed a toe off the left foot of Michelangelo’s legendary David statue. While law enforcement made their way to the museum, Cannata was restrained by visitors.
Although the nearly 500 hundred year-old sculpture was able to be repaired, Antonio Paolucci, the director of the museum, lamented: “The moral impact remains. The world’s most famous statue has been damaged.” Cannata declared he had been instructed to deface the piece by “La Belle Nani,” a 16th century Renaissance portrait of a female model painted by Paolo Veronese. Charged with degrading Italian artistic heritage, Cannata was tried, labelled mentally ill, and sent to a psychiatric hospital. Since then, he has been continually released from psychiatric care and recaptured for vandalizing several additional works of art.
In 1993, Cannata was discovered in the Prato cathedral scribbling on a 15th century fresco by Fillipo Lippi with a black marker. Later in the year, he slashed a 16th century painting entitled “Adoration of the Shepherds Before Baby Jesus” with a knife. At the national museum of modern art in Rome, he again used black marker to doodle on a Jackson Pollock painting in 1999 with the claim that it was ugly. “Because it has a sentence that doesn’t make sense” was his 2005 excuse when he took credit for spray painting a black “X” across a commemorative plaque set in the paving of Piazza dell Signoria in Florence, Italy. In the past, he had reportedly told authorities he feels compelled to disfigure the artwork by an inexplicable internal force.
In May 2014, it was reported that Michelangelo’s David was in danger of collapse due to weakened ankles, caused by years of minute vibrations from the millions of visitors who walk past the statue yearly, as well as automobile traffic in the area.