The Fight to Protect the Dignity Michelangelo’s “David”

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  • Source: AP News
  • 03/29/2024
Michelangelo's masterpiece, the Statue of David, stands as one of the most  renowned sculptures globally, its significance deeply ingrained in Western culture since its completion in 1504. Yet, regrettably, the historical, political, and religious weight  carried by this iconic work seems to elude younger generations.

Both in its birthplace of Florence, Italy, and beyond, admirers of Michelangelo's  David find themselves disheartened by its commodification in pop culture. Nowadays, David's likeness adorns commonplace items like fridge magnets and other tourist  souvenirs, often emphasizing his anatomy in a trivializing manner.

From AP News:

The Galleria dell’Accademia’s director, Cecilie Hollberg, has positioned herself as David’s defender since her arrival at the museum in 2015, taking swift aim at those profiteering from his image, often in ways she finds “debasing.”

In that way, she is a bit of a David herself against the Goliath of unfettered capitalism with its army of street vendors and souvenir shop operators hawking aprons of the statue’s nude figure, T-shirts of it engaged in obscene gestures, and ubiquitous figurines, often in Pop Art neon.

At Hollberg’s behest, the state’s attorney office in Florence has launched a series of court cases invoking Italy’s landmark cultural heritage code, which protects artistic treasures from disparaging and unauthorized commercial use. The Accademia has won hundreds of thousands of euros (dollars) in damages since 2017, Hollberg said.

“There was great joy throughout all the world for this truly unique victory that we managed to achieve, and questions and queries from all over about how we did it, to ask advice on how to move,” she told The Associated Press.

Legal action has followed to protect masterpieces at other museums, not without debate, including Leonardo’s “Vitruvian Man,” Donatello’s David and Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus.”

The decisions challenge a widely held practice that intellectual property rights are protected for a specified period before entering the public domain — the artist’s lifetime plus 70 years, according to the Berne Convention signed by more than 180 countries including Italy.

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