Michelangelo's David might look peaceful and stress free, but in reality, he's rather strained, particularly around the leg area, according to a new analysis of the structure.
The results have come from a new method for analysing stress, which has been applied to scans of the world's most famous marble statue, sculpted between 1501 to 1504.
Vadim Shapiro of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Igor Tsukanov of Florida International University and their colleagues applied their "Scan and Solve" computer technique to the Renaissance masterpiece and discovered the points where it is most under strain based solely on its shape.
The researchers said that their technique is a proof of principle for a computer-based method that is simpler, faster and more accurate than those used before, and can be applied to bones too, whether of patients or long extinct creatures.
"This research is likely to result in a breakthrough technology for performing direct engineering analysis on physical artifacts in situ (in place)," the Telegraph quoted Shapiro, director of the Spatial Automation Laboratory at his university, as saying.
The technology is based a three dimensional scan of an object, which can be done with a laser, and works out the weak spots and how those points will be affected by forces acting on them, such as gravity in the case of David, or activity in the case of a human bone, even dinosaur bone.
Michael Freytag, whose doctoral thesis details how the researchers were able to calculate the stresses that the statue endures on a daily basis, said that a front and a back inspection of Michelangelo's David through the latest technique revealed weak regions in red and yellow, especially his right leg.
The conclusions matched with the statue's known crack damage found by an earlier 2006 study in the Journal of Cultural Heritage by a team led by Prof Antonio Borri from the University of Perugia.
The researchers said that conservators to predict where a sculpture is likely to deteriorate and so allow pre-emptive repairs could use the method.
They say that doctors to design replacement bone implants such as hips could also use it.
"Combining Scan and Solve with medical imaging technology can set a new mark in personalised medicine, for example, by introducing stress analysis into orthopedic clinics and allowing personalized assessment of implant fit, positioning, bone quality and patient activity," Tsukanov said.
Shapiro, Tsukanov and their colleagues will present their latest results from their "Scan and Solve" computer technique at the International Conference on Computational and Experimental Engineering and Sciences in Honolulu, Hawaii.