Over at Bloomberg View, Virginia Postrel has a great piece up about reactions to gun maker ArmaLite's use of Michelangelo's David to sell its firearms.
The advertisement image of an armed David offends and violates the law,”tweeted tourism minister Dario Franceschini. Angel Tartuferi, director of the Accademia Gallery, which houses the sculpture, agreed: “The law says that the aesthetic value of the work cannot be altered."
Postrel notes that Italian officials are selective in their outrage:
This moral posturing is clearly about something other than respect for the sculpture’s “aesthetic value” or “cultural dignity.” Otherwise, officials would crack down on the David boxer shorts sold by countless Florentine vendors. And where was the outrage in 1981, when the David was flogging Rush brand poppers, amyl nitrite drugs used to enhance sexual pleasure, in magazines aimed at gay men?
The former Reason editor in chief (online archive here) drives home the point that giving David a gun is fully in keeping with the original reason Florentine patrons were shelling out money for statues of a guy known for taking an adversary much, much bigger than he was.
They commissioned statues of David because he was a martial hero who had felled an intimidating foe. They made him a beautiful nude to emphasize his heroism, not to disguise his bloody deed. (Donatello’s David has his boot triumphantly on Goliath’s severed head.) Michelangelo’s giant was meant as an inspiration to locals and a warning to would-be invaders. He wasn’t an underwear model. He was a Minuteman. Putting a gun in his hand may look weird, but it’s a lot truer to his original meaning than a souvenir apron.