This week, my daughter and I have been studying art history and styles. On Thursday, the theme was sculpture. We read a book about famous sculptures around the world. For the most part, the book was very good. In fact, I only had one problem with the book.
The photo of Michelangelo’s David.
Apparently, this book was written by people who think that children are going to be ruined for life if they see naked people. Although the book showed every other sculpture in its entirety (and the ornate Shrine of the Three Kings in great detail), David was shown only in parts, like so:
It’s not that there wasn’t room, or even that it was more important to show the details of the sculpture. The other works were shown in full, with individual parts highlighted. Why didn’t this, possibly the most famous sculpture in Western art, receive the same treatment?
Are we that afraid that our kids are going to see a penis? What do we think might happen if they do?
This is art. Michelangelo didn’t create this piece for the purpose of creating sexual arousal. The human body is extraordinarily beautiful, something captured fully in this wonderful sculpture. I am not worried that my children will be damaged by admiring it. I’m not even worried that their curiosity about the human form might be piqued, or that they might giggle a little and point out that David’s private parts aren’t covered up. It provides an opportunity to talk to them. Seeing a naked statue doesn’t offend me.
Refusing to acknowledge it does.
We live in a world where the human form has become so sexualized that women are told to cover up when they breastfeed in public and David is shown in pieces to avoid revealing his naughty bits. Modesty has been reduced to a list of inappropriate clothing items. We have to do a better job! We need to make a better distinction between what is done for the purpose of inducing sexual arousal and that which is done for the purpose of nurturing a child, creating a work of great art, or expressing one’s unique self. The former is known as pornography; the latter is not.
Next time I check out a book on sculpture for my kids, I’m going to make sure that David is shown in all his magnificent beauty.