The ArmaLite ads (via

The ArmaLite ads (via

There are few better ways to piss off Italians than to insult their cultural heritage. Which is what a American small arms manufacturer named ArmaLite has done, with an ad that shows Michelangelo’s famous “David” (1501–04) sculpture toting a rifle instead of his traditional sling. (Online news site Il Post points out that the David image is one of a pair: the other shows a rifle hanging on the wall of a museum, cordoned off behind a velvet rope, hanging between Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.) Although the AR-50A1 rifle, which costs $3,359, looks comically large and ineffective in David’s hands, Italian officials are up in arms after the advertisement ran in l’Espresso magazine last Friday.

“The advertisement of an armed David offends and violates the law,” tweeted Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini. “We will act against the American company that must immediately end the campaign.” Angel Tartuferi, the director of the Accademia, the museum where “David” is housed, also weighed in, according to La Repubblica:

The law says that the aesthetic value of the work cannot be altered. In this case we are faced with an act that is not only in bad taste but is completely illegal.

The law they’re referring to is the copyright of the image, which is owned by the Italian state via the Accademia and mandates that users obtain permission and pay a fee. ArmaLite did neither. Then again, it may be just as well that they didn’t bother, since permission hinges on the image use being “considered appropriate and respectful of the object’s ‘cultural dignity,’” says La Reppublica.

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Jillian Steinhauer

Jillian Steinhauer is a former senior editor of Hyperallergic. She writes largely about the intersection of art...

8 replies on “US Company Puts a Gun in Arms of Michelangelo’s “David””

  1. Has Italy missed all the aprons with the David’s “junk” on them? The poka-dot miniatures sold all over the world? I understand that the ad is in bad taste…but most things involving the David, since it’s initial creation, have been in pretty bad taste.

  2. The Italians think they can copyright the IMAGE of the work?! Good fucking luck with that!

    1. It’s not uncommon. The reproduction rights to the Sistine Chapel were sold to the Nippon Television Network Corporation of Japan for $4.2 million (the money was used to fund the restoration of the frescos) – which is why photography by visitors is banned. Watching the few guards attempt to enforce this amongst the masses of visitors is laughable.

  3. rip it out of a magazine, pin it on the living room wall of the mobile home some Tennessee gunlovers; now it’s art. Take a pic of it, the setting, the family and its dogs and guns; now it says something.

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