Florence vs Italy

Michelangelo's David at centre of ownership row

Florence city council has threatened a courtroom battle with the Italian government over the ownership of Michelangelo's David.

Lawyers for the Italian Ministry of Culture have dredged up documents from centuries ago to prepare a case which says the marble figure - which draws more than £8 million from 1.5 million visitors who flock to see the masterpiece each year - belongs to the state.

However, the Tuscan city of Florence, where David is the star attraction at the Accademia gallery, insists the masterpiece is theirs.

Maurizio Raugei and Luigi Andronio, lawyers acting on behalf of Sandro Bondi, the Italian culture minister, say history is on their side.

Pointing to the patchwork of independent city states that made up the peninsula of Italy until the country was unified in 1861, the lawyers say that Florence city council, which was created when the city was part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, cannot be considered the "descendant" of the Florentine republic, which existed when Michelangelo carved the statue.

Standing 17ft high, the statue depicts the Old Testament hero who killed the mighty Philistine giant Goliath with a single stone from his slingshot.

The Renaissance master was paid 400 Florins for the work, which was commissioned in 1501 for the city's cathedral. However, when it was finished in 1504, it was placed outside the Palazzo Della Signoria, where the local government had its offices.

It came to symbolise the Republic of Florence's bravery against other more powerful surrounding states and David's warring gaze was directed towards Rome.

But the Italian lawyers dismissed the local ties, arguing that, following Italian unification in 1861, the statue belongs to the nation.

They claim that when David was moved in 1872 from outside the Palazzo to its current position in the Accademia, the city made no claim on it.

A lawyers note written at the time on behalf of Florence Council concluded: "There can be no question that because none of these original states and republics exist today that the statue of David is a patrimony of the Italian state."

But Matteo Renzi, Florence's centre-Left mayor, claimed he had documents to prove the statue belonged to the city, adding: "I am more than happy to meet with Minister Bondi to discuss this case and avoid a petty childlike squabble and come to some agreement. But we are prepared to fight to show David is ours."

(Published by Telegraph - August 16, 2010)

latest top stories

subscribe |  contact us |  sponsors |  migalhas in portuguese |  migalhas latinoamérica