The Gallerie dell’Accademia has officially won the image rights to Michelangelo’s David sculpture following a lawsuit in which the Gallerie sued an Italian publishing house for using the sculpture’s image without permission, according to numerous Italian news sources.
According to ANSA, the publishing house superimposed the David’s image on a picture of a model “in an openly advertising key.” The court ruled that the image of Michelangelo’s David “must be authorized, all the more so if the use is for advertising purposes.”
The price for infringing on the image rights is steep and two-fold. Because the publishing house didn’t ask for permission and didn’t pay the Gallerie’s licensing fee, patrimonial damage will cost the company €20,000 (roughly the same in USD). Another €30,000 in damages are owed for the method in which David was portrayed.
According to Finestra sull’Arte, the court ruled that the publishing house “insidiously and maliciously juxtaposed the image of Michelangelo’s.” David with that of a model, thus debasing, obfuscating, mortifying, and humiliating the high symbolic and identity value of the work of art and enslaving it for advertising and editorial promotional purposes.”
This is not the first time Gallerie dell’Accademia has sought legal action against companies who use images of works in its possession without permission, though public domain protections vary by country.
Earlier this month, the Gallerie stopped the German toy company Ravensburger from producing puzzles featuring Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvian man and fined the toymaker €1,500 per day from when the 1,000 piece puzzle began production in November of last year.
Similarly, Italy’s Uffizi Gallery last year sued the fashion designer Jean-Paul Gaultier for using Botticelli’s Birth of Venus on shirts, blouses, skirts, and t-shirts with damages expected to top €100,000.
In each case, the court’s decision was based on a correlation of two defining articles of the Italian constitution: article two, which “guarantees the inviolable rights of the person, both as an individual and in the social groups,” and article nine which “ promotes the development of culture.”
According to Italy 24, the court said that the superimposed image was “detrimental to the image of cultural heritage as an expression of the cultural identity of the nation” and therefore violated the “collective identity of citizens” of Italy.
David was recently at the center of another scandal after a Florida charter school principle included a full-body picture of the sculpture in a syllabus, leading some parents to complain that the work was “pornographic”; the principal ultimately resigned under pressure. However, she and her family were later invited by the mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, on an all-expenses paid trip to view the statue.
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