Florentine furore over who owns David
David . . . Michelangelo carved it from Carrara marble. Photo: Louie Douvis
ROME: A bitter row has erupted over the ownership of Michelangelo's David between the Italian state and Florence, the city where the masterpiece is on display.
A symbol of the Florentine Republic's defiance of its enemies, including Rome, when erected in 1504 - at the entrance to Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall - Michelangelo's portrayal of the slayer of Goliath has remained a mascot for proud locals long after the unification of Italy.
But after delving into centuries-old archives, lawyers commissioned by the government of Silvio Berlusconi have produced what they call conclusive evidence that the Renaissance masterpiece belongs not to Florence, but to the Italian state.
In a country where local loyalties often triumph over national pride, the reaction in Florence was fast and furious. ''With all due respect to Roman lawyers,'' said the mayor, Matteo Renzi, ''the unquestioned documents in the possession of the city and the state are clear: David belongs to Florence.''
The legal team from Rome argues that the state of Italy, not the city of Florence, is the legal successor to the Florentine Republic, which funded the purchase of David, which Michelangelo carved from a block of Carrara marble that had lain unused in Florence for decades.
Claiming the lawyers in Rome had ''nothing better to do in August'' than seize statues, Mr Renzi cited his own historical research. ''When Rome became the capital of Italy, a decree in 1870-71 assigned Palazzo Vecchio and all it contained to Florence, including David,'' he said. ''David is ours. That is what the documents state.''
But not according to the lawyers, who say that the paperwork relating to the handover of the palazzo makes no mention of David, ''even though by this time it had acquired an enormous symbolic value''.
In addition, when David was put on display at the Accademia Gallery in Florence in 1873, the city asserted no rights to the sculpture. A year later, the report says, the then mayor of Florence even claimed David belonged to the Italian government when he billed Rome for the cost of moving it.
David is worth 8million ($11.5million) in annual ticket sales which, to Mr Renzi's irritation, the government pockets.
Guardian News & Media