More on the David

News for Italian Renaissance penises, part 2. Material from the New York Times Magazine on the 21st — racy topic, but not officially X-rated.

Part 1 yesterday, with the cover of the issue, showing a crew working on a reproduction of Michelangelo’s David in Carrara, Italy (photo by Maurizio Cattelan), with David’s penis right in the center of the image. Then the story, “David’s Ankles: How Imperfections Could Bring Down the World’s Most Perfect Statue: My obsession with the flaws, reproductions and potential collapse of Michelangelo’s masterpiece” by Sam Anderson. Not ordinary reportage, but a “personal essay”, about Anderson’s experiences and emotions — though with plenty of research about the city of Florence (Firenze), its history, the artist Michelangelo, and the creation of the statue (which Anderson refers to as the David), also with Anderson’s interviews with significant parties in the current rescue efforts.

The penis of the David — probably the most famous and the most viewed penis in the Western world — is a recurrent theme in Anderson’s essay. A few words about the David’s genitals, and then on to excerpts from Anderson’s essay.

Size. The David’s penis is generally characterized as “small” or even “tiny”. There are certainly four, and possibly five, contributions to this effect.

Factor 1: erect length. There is considerable variability in the length of erect penises. From a 1/12/13 posting on this blog:

[in simple terms,] the average erect penis is between 5 (on the low side) and 6 (on the high side) inches long, and almost all hard dicks are between 4.2 (on the low side) and 7.5 (on the high side) inches long.

Factor 2: size expectations and perceptions. From this same posting:

These facts about the real world don’t translate well into perceptions and practices: a 5″ [hard] dick is seen (in real life and in porn) as *small* (this is my size range, and I can attest to the fact that men who really care about size find it unacceptably small), and in porn a 6″ dick isn’t notable enough for mention; write-ups of pornstars almost never mention a dick size below 7″, though 7″ is fairly common in these write-ups. Note that 7″ is only a half-inch short of truly extraordinary.

That is, the David could be well within the normal range but still be perceived as small.

Factor 3: flaccidity. But in fact the David’s dick, the dick of the David (I’ve held off on this bit of alliteration for all long as I could), is soft, not hard. It’s “common knowledge” that flaccid length and erect length are not well correlated (some men grow a lot, some only a little), and this notion turns out to to well-founded. From the Statgasm site:

On average, a flaccid penis will grow about 4cm or 1.6″, but what’s most surprising is who grows what. All flaccid penises, big or small, are just as likely to grow by 4cm.

That is, the variability in erect length and the variability in the erection increase (the difference between erect and flaccid length) are largely independent of one another, which means that the variability in flaccid length is considerably greater than the variability in erect length. So the David could have a modest soft dick but a much more substantial hard one.

Factor 4: artistic conventions and cultural values. It’s well-documented that statues of naked men in classical (Greek and Roman) times for the most part had rather small (to modern eyes) penises, and that this artistic convention was echoed in Renaussance statuary.

This was not an arbitrary artistic convention, but instead followed from the cultural values of classical times, according to which large penises were associated with foolishness, stupidity, ugliness, bestiality, lack of control, low class, and lust, while small penises were associated with wisdom, restraint, self-control, education, breeding, male beauty, and higher class. The David is not a dumb beast, but a man of parts, and his penis is an outward sign of these excellent qualities.

Factor 5: contextual factors. Any number of such factors can diminish genital size (penis and balls both): temperature and emotional state, in particular. Men’s genitals, famously, shrink up in the cold, retreat into the body (as when swimming or bathing in cold water), and do so as well under stress: under threat, in moments of high anxiety, and so on. A number of writers have suggested that the David’s stance indicates anxiety or fear over his coming battle with Goliath, and shrinking genitals would align with that state.

From Anderson’s essay. Anderson first recalls a visit of his younger self to the David, and then chronicles a recent visit:

And so, on my bad ankles and with my broken gaze, I returned to see the David. Things in Florence seemed essentially the same. Crowds still waited for hours in the brutal heat to enter the churchlike museum. Inside, the David stood exactly as I last saw him. I experienced the same moment of revelation: the sudden improbability of his size, his excellence. He still dominated the space, still held the light on his impossibly subtle musculature. In fact, he was looking better than ever, because in the intervening years he had been cleaned, millimeter by millimeter, at great expense and with some controversy — the grit and dust of 500 years scrubbed off. The marble seemed to glow. Once again, my brain reached for the word “perfect.”

But “perfect” no longer seemed adequate. Although I couldn’t see the cracks inside the David’s ankles and legs, I knew they were there. I knew other things too: that the marble of his face was pocked with holes, for instance, which restorers had filled in, and that he was missing a small chip of stone from one of his lower eyelids, and that his right little toe had been lost multiple times, and that a crazy man had taken a hammer to his left foot in 1991. Although the David’s maladies were mostly patched up over the centuries, you could still see all the scars.

… The Accademia attracts well over a million visitors a year, and they all end up in one room: the David’s rotunda. I stood there, in the summer of 2015, watching the crowd watch the David.

… people took pictures. For almost its entire history, the Accademia has been a strict no-camera zone, but the rise of smartphones made that impossible, and now the phones have taken over. Tourists spend their time in front of the three-dimensional David poking a two-dimensional version of him on their touch screens. I witnessed the execution of many, many selfies: the jockeying for a proper angle, the sudden dead-eyed smile, the brisk walk away.

A crowd photographing the David in the city’s Accademia Gallery (photo: Andrea Frazzetta):


… The most popular target for photographers was the David’s genitals. People were obsessed with them. I watched a very American man (Tommy Hilfiger shirt, Oakley sunglasses, BMW baseball hat) pretend to cup the statue’s testicles while his wife took his picture — and then his wife pretended to cup the David’s testicles while he took her picture. Two women posed for a photo pretending to hold the David’s penis simultaneously, as if it were a trophy fish. A serious man touch-focused his iPhone camera, with delicate precision, on the David’s foreskin.

… If looking at Michelangelo’s David is the equivalent of eating chocolate, then walking the streets of Florence is like drowning in Willy Wonka’s gushing chocolate river. The image of the David is everywhere. There are bookmarks, mouse pads, T-shirts, posters, watches, key chains, mugs, ballpoint pens, commemorative plates, pie servers, snow globes, sugar spoons, USB sticks and Christmas ornaments. There are leather shops and pizzerias and even parking garages named after him. Tourists can buy aprons that make them look as if they have the David’s body: the lean, muscular torso, the naked little penis.

… And then there are the statuettes: a vast army of miniature imitation Davids that stand in shop windows and on hawkers’ carts in all the famous piazzas. Near the Accademia I found a store called, in English, “David Shop.” It was a David-replica bonanza, more Davids than I have ever seen in one place before. The smallest was the size of my pinkie, the biggest slightly taller than an average Italian woman. I bought a postcard that was also a jigsaw puzzle featuring the David’s penis wearing sunglasses and saying “Ciao!”

Colorful David figurines for sale in Florence (photo: Andrea Frazzetta)


Bonus: Anthony’s wiener. Perhaps by accident, perhaps by design, the interview in this issue of the magazine (by Mark Leibovich) is with former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), who, under the pseudonym Carlos Danger, had a notable career as a man with the dick pics. Phallic highlights from the coverage on this blog:

6/7/11, “Package deal“: the Weinergate episode


9/14/11, “The news for penises”: #2 Tom Tomorrow cartoon featuring Weiner

7/27/13, “Annals of phallicity: Carlos Danger at bay”: New Yorker cover with Anthony Weiner

8/3/13, “The Weinerfest rolls on”: New Yorker Weiner cartoon

8/4/13, “On the Weiner watch”: gay porn parody flick Anthony’s Weener

8/16/16, “News for penises: dick pic advice from Eric André”



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