Italians angry over advert image of Michelangelo’s David holding rifle

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 March, 2014, 9:48pm
UPDATED : Monday, 10 March, 2014, 9:48pm


In 1527 his arm was smashed by rioters. In 1991 a man attacked his toe with a hammer. Now, however, Michelangelo's David has suffered arguably his greatest indignity to date.

To the horror of many in the Italian cultural establishment, the world-famous marble statue has been pictured in an advertisement cradling not a slingshot but an American-made rifle.

An image of David brandishing an AR-50A1 sold by ArmaLite, a 60-year-old Illinois-based small-arms engineering company, has provoked such anger in Italy that the culture minister took to Twitter to demand the advert be "immediately" ditched.

"The advertisement image of the [statue of] David armed offends and infringes the law," read a post by Dario Franceschini. "We will take action against the American company which must immediately withdraw the campaign."

Entitled A Work of Art, the advert shows David preparing to take on Goliath with the large rifle instead of his humble sling and stones.

Florence, home of the 16th-century statue, has expressed particular indignation. The superintendent for the city's historical heritage and fine arts board, Cristina Acidini, has reportedly issued the company with a legal notice asking for the image to be withdrawn.

Philosopher Sergio Givone, the city's councillor for culture, claimed in newspaper La Repubblica the depiction was "a real abuse". "It is an act of violence towards the sculpture; like taking a hammer to it and perhaps, actually, even worse," he said.

But art critic Philippe Daverio poured cold water on the row, comparing the US advert to tongue-in-cheek images of the Mona Lisa with a moustache.

"Certain cultural icons belong to everyone and no one; to humanity in general," he was quoted as saying.