Michelangelo slaves and David encased in brick during WWII, image: reddit

There is a Michelangelo inside every brick cairn, and it was the curator’s job to bury it.

Museum historian Anna Tulliach tweeted these amazing photos from Italian archives. They show Michelangelo’s sculptures in the Accademia in Florence–David and the unfinished Slaves–encased in brick during World War II, an effort to protect them from possible damage during Allied attacks.

I don’t want to steal any of Tulliach’s thunder; only one of the images is in ready circulation online, and they may come from the 1942 report on protecting the patrimony she referenced later. The encasement only gets passing mentions, though, in histories of art preservation in the midst and aftermath of WWII, and I, for one, am psyched to know more.

The director of the Accademia at the time was Ugo Procacci, and he undertook the massive effort to evacuate what artworks he could from the city, and store them for safekeeping in remote villas around Tuscany.

Michelangelo’s David encased in brick at the Accademia during WWII, via AT

What’s so great is these forms themselves. They’ve been called silos, but I’d think they have to be solid, more like a cairn. In another context, their form is obviously a lingam; and we all know Michelangelo loved the lingam.  But anyway, there they are, in a museum.

Michelangelo, The Bearded Slave & The Atlas, via Accademia

It turns out to be very difficult to find out exactly what Michelangelo said, or what Vasari said he said, even, about a statue existing in every block of stone, and it’s the sculptor’s job to free it.

But it could be a sculptor’s job again to remake these forms, with a Michelangelo-shaped void at the center of each one. We can bring these back. And we should.

Olafur Eliasson, Your House, 2006, published with Friends of MoMA Library. image via

It could be like Your House, that intricately die-cut book Olafur Eliasson made with MoMA’s library, but out of bricks.