Italian cultural officials have threatened court action
to stop an American arms manufacturer showing the revered
Renaissance statue of Michelangelo's David holding a rifle in
its advertising campaign.
Culture Minister Dario Franceschini led the battle cry after
stories about the ad - describing the weapon as a "work of
art" - appeared in Italian newspapers.
He tweeted his disgust, saying the image "offends and
infringes the law. We will act against the American company,
which must immediately withdraw the campaign".
Armalite, a small Illinois-based firm, used a photograph of
David, which Michelangelo sculpted from a single block of
marble in 1504, in an advertisement for its AR50A1 rifle.
The ad substitutes the muscular Biblical character's sling
and stone with the modern weapon. The ad campaign has run in
specialised magazines, featuring a photo of the David statue,
which is on exhibition in Florence's Academia museum.
Cristina Acidini, superintendent of Florence's museums, was
as appalled as the culture minister. "We warn the company not
to continue using the image," she told reporters.
Her office told Reuters that Florence museums do not allow
use of their art works for commercial purposes without
permission and that Armalite had not asked for this.
Armalite did not immediately return a telephone call asking
for a comment.
Not everybody in Italy's art world thought Armalite's ad
campaign was such a bad idea, however.
"Art is full of violence ... Adulteration of images is not
new to contemporary art," said Vittorio Sgarbi, an art critic
and former junior culture minister.
After all, some commentators pointed out, 19th-century French
revolutionary conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp put a
moustache and beard on Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa.