Italians, and Italy as a whole, are indignant over an American advertisement that portrays Michelangelo’s David clutching a rifle, specifically an AR-50A1 high-powered rifle, as though a weapons advocate. Would the Master have found it even mildly amusing, given his sensitivity to the art form? The question that is more to the point, however, is how could this gun manufacturer have found this appropriate in any way? Are they going to place a pistol on the image of the deceased Jesus held in Mary’s arms on the Pieta in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome next? David may have conquered Goliath, but he accomplished it with his bare hands and a sling shot, not a rifle. The gun manufacturer, ArmaLite, based in Illinois, pushed the publicity campaign through and has dubbed this image, A Work of Art.
The David is not just a work of art; it is a superbly crafted sculpture, carved from a single block of pure Carrara marble in the sixteenth century by a gifted sculptor. The David stands four meters high, weighing no less than six tons, in his own private viewing room in the Galleria Dell’Accademia in Florence. Copies of the David can be found in many European cities. This is the original. Like most celebrities, he goes by a single name, David, and he has stood tall on his pedestal for over five hundred years. He stands nude, and he’s proud of it, a reflection of the passion of the Renaissance artists to show the human form in its most beautiful light. David is Renaissance Man.
Angelo Taruferi, Director of Florence’s Accademia Gallery, explains, “The law says that the aesthetic value of the work cannot be distorted.” The American weapons manufacturer has crossed the line.
Italians are proud of the artistry that beautifies their cities and of the masters who created it. To see an advertisement of the sculpture they hold in the highest regard vandalized even on paper must be offensive.
Italy’s Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, has said Italy will instigate legal action against the gun manufacturer, Armalite, for unlawfully imposing the image of Michelangelo’s masterpiece to promote their sales of a weapon. He also stated that he wants ArmaLite to withdraw the image immediately because “it offends and violates the law.” In fact, all Italians are indignant and enraged over this ad featuring David clutching a rifle.
Cristina Acidini, the Superintendent of the State Museums of Florence, reminded the weapons manufacturer that the image of David is copyrighted to Italy. They would have had to get permission to use the image for their benefit, according to Italy’s state-run ANSA news agency.
CNN could not get in touch with Armalite for any comments, but added that the controversial ad of David has been out since last May. Another ad in ArmaLite’s A Work of Art campaign has a rifle, once again, hanging on the wall of the Louvre museum jammed between two famous paintings – the Mona Lisa and American Gothic.
Italy is incensed over this lack of respect for iconic works of art that have been around for centuries and which reflect the gifted artists of that time. When the Minister of Culture had to issue a threat to the gun company if they did not withdraw the ad, many Italians responded with comments such as, “Art is untouchable and cannot be used to spread death. If you want to enrich your wallets use your own monuments, you have many.”
Until Armalite removes this image from their ad campaign, all Italians will continue to feel anger and indignation over the disrespect and offensive portrayal of the sacred sculpture of David clutching a rifle.
By Christine Schlicht