The cultural fight over Michelangelo's David

Some in Italy are trying to stop what they consider 'debasing' use of the sculpture

Photo collage of Michaelangelo's David, closely cropped on his face. In the background, pop-art style repeats of his face in bight colours stretch out into the distance.
Replicas of Michelangelo's David are the subject of legal battles
(Image credit: Illustration by Julia Wytrazek / Shutterstock)

Michelangelo's David is among the most famous pieces of Renaissance artwork and remains a well-known symbol of Italy. More than 1.4 million people visit the sculpture annually at Florence's Accademia gallery, according to American University. However, David has become embroiled in several controversies over its depiction of a nude male — and now one of them has struck the streets of Florence itself. 

A recent report in The Associated Press describes how Italian cultural curators are becoming worried that the "marble statue's religious and political significance is being diminished by the thousands of refrigerator magnets and other souvenirs sold around Florence." Many of these souvenirs revolve around the sculpture's visible genitalia, the AP said, and the city streets often feature "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."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up
To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us
Justin Klawans, The Week US

 Justin Klawans has worked as a staff writer at The Week since 2022. He began his career covering local news before joining Newsweek as a breaking news reporter, where he wrote about politics, national and global affairs, business, crime, sports, film, television and other Hollywood news. Justin has also freelanced for outlets including Collider and United Press International.