*update – this Kickstarter met its 5000$ goal within 12 days! Interest is high in innovative art history, and I hope that you’ll still consider donating.

If you think you know the whole story of Michelangelo’s David, think again. I have in my possession a forthcoming book that will surprise even Renaissance art historians with tidbits about the context of Michelangelo’s commission to the later reception of the work.

In my job at The Florentine, I have had the wonderful opportunity to edit a new book by Professor Victor Coonin (Chair of art at Rhodes College), that we’ll be publishing very soon under the title “From Marble to Flesh. The Biography of Michelangelo’s David”. The book fits my personal goal of “making art accessible”, a goal that has been embraced by The Florentine Press, who produces successful art books for the general public. And the author has been a very good sport, allowing us to put his book on Kickstarter to raise money for its printing. This campaign is running until April 16, 2014, and I really hope you will head over there to donate and get the book as soon as it comes off the press.


The idea to Kickstart this book about Michelangelo’s David comes from a real desire to communicate the story of the David. Professor Coonin has written a book that I really think is interesting for the general public. It’s written more as a spoken conversation than an academic text, like you have an affable professor with you, explaining a really great story. It’s the kind of story that made me want to study art history. One of those stories that weaves in and out of documents and visual sources, looking for clues towards understanding lost statues and other things that contribute to what the David is today.


“From Marble to Flesh” is the whole history of the David told as a biography. As such, it covers everything from when the order was made to quarry the marble that would become the David 96 years later, right up to the present day, like when an American arms manufacturer was recently ordered to cease use of the image of the David for a rather offensive advertisement. We wonder, and get answers to the question “Why is the David so famous?” as to be reproduced on everything from postage stamps (above, a disconcerting mouth on a German stamp) to posters for gay theatres. The final chapter of the book is indeed perhaps the most interesting, in which the author addresses issues of homosexuality, ownership and reproduction. I cannot give away any more than that, so you’re going to have to buy the book!


Kickstarter and the academic book

I personally back this project because I have learned a lot from the book and would like to see it out there for everyone to read. But I’m also very interested in the process of putting a project like this on Kickstarter. This crowdfunding platform allows one to propose a project to the public, and you only cash in if you reach a target amount in donations. I have done some research on what art historical projects have been funded on this and similar platforms, and as far as I can tell, there hasn’t been anything specific to Italian art history. There have been archaeological digs and videos (Smarthistory got 11K in funding for their videos), new museums (including one dedicated to Tesla that raised $1.3M on indiegogo), and there have been contemporary and community art books (contemporary art is a category that tends to have a fair amount of appeal). Certainly one does not see academic books, and never academic presses, on crowdfunding platforms.

This raises questions about the validity of the academic process: while it is ever more difficult to find publishers willing to risk the investment of printing a book, the tenure process forces young professors to publish books (not just articles). Yet the publication of a purely academic book is not necessarily the best reflection of a professor’s ability to successfully communicate concepts to his students, an ability that ought to be a priority for universities. If the public votes for a book by pledging money towards its fruition (in exchange for a copy as soon as it’s printed, in a form of pre-sale), the press can gauge the audience for the book, and the university can see a demonstrated interest in the professor’s research. Isn’t this in some way a vote for how well the professor engages his students?

So if you love art – and I know you do because you’re reading my blog – please donate any amount you wish here (or with the big button below).

Be the first to get a copy of “From Marble to Flesh” by backing it on Kickstarter

UPDATE: The book is now available for purchase

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