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Ad of Michelangelo’s David with rifle scandalizes Italy

A detail from Armalite's controversial ad for its AR50A1 rifle.(YouTube grab)

ROME: Italian cultural officials have threatened court action to stop a U.S. 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 ad 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 specialized magazines, featuring a photo of the David statue, which is on exhibit 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 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,” art critic and former junior Culture Minister Vittorio Sgarbi said. “Adulteration of images is not new to contemporary art.”

After all, some commentators pointed out, French revolutionary conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) put a moustache and beard on Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.

The arms manufacturer’s ad also inserted a fig leaf-like object between the statue's genitals (in Michelangelo’s original, David is nude) and the assault rifle, inviting questions about Armalite's notions of decency, indecency and the so-called purity of arms. -- With The Daily Star

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 12, 2014, on page 16.

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Summary

Italian cultural officials have threatened court action to stop a U.S. arms manufacturer showing the revered Renaissance statue of Michelangelo's David holding a rifle in its advertising 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 ad for its AR50A1 rifle.

The ad campaign has run in specialized magazines, featuring a photo of the David statue, which is on exhibit in Florence's Academia museum.

Not everybody in Italy's art world thought Armalite's ad campaign was such a bad idea, however.


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