Italy’s culture minister Dario Franceschini expressed outrage on Saturday over firearms manufacturer ArmaLite’s latest advertisement: a depiction of Michelangelo’s David holding an AR-50A1. In the ad ArmaLite expressed the connection between a work of art, such as the 16th century sculpture, and an expertly-crafted rifle. Instead, Franceschini said that the altered image of David is not only offensive, but is against Italian law.
According to the BBC, the culture minister has urged the company to withdraw its advertising campaign involving the David image or face legal action. The Italian government claims it has copyright on any commercial uses of the statue.
“The image of David, armed, offends and infringes the law. We will take action against the American company so that it immediately withdraws its campaign,” Franceschini wrote on his Twitter account over the weekend.
The Italian master artist Michelangelo finished the 17-foot-tall statue in 1504, basing it off of the biblical hero David. The statue was initially placed in the public square outside of Florence’s Palazzo della Signoria and quickly grew to embody the Italian city-state’s sense of independence in the face of belligerent neighbors. The statue was later moved into the Accademia Gallery for safe keeping. Fox News reported that the current director of the gallery, Angelo Tartuferi, is also upset with the American rifle maker for the ad.
“The law says that the aesthetic value of the work cannot be distorted. In this case, not only is the choice in bad taste but also completely illegal,” Tartuferi told la Repubblica.
ArmaLite first tweeted the ad back in May. It was only recently that the company began receiving a small negative reaction to the ad on its social media properties. The company has not yet released a response to the newfound criticism.
The rifle pictured in the ad, the AR-50A1, is a single-shot bolt-action rifle chambered in .50 BMG. Founded in 1954, ArmaLite is perhaps best known for being the first builder of the AR-15, which was later adopted by the United States military as the M16.