A Florence museum has won a legal case against a magazine publisher that used an image of Michelangelo’s David without permission. An Italian court ruled in favour of the Gallerie dell’Accademia, which houses the artwork, due to GQ magazine’s “mortifying and humiliating” cover image.
The statue is 500 years old and out of copyright protection. However, according to Artnet News, Italian law allows the museum to control how images of the artwork are used. The museum is also allowed to demand a reproduction fee.
The lawsuit was taken out against publishing house Edizioni Conde Nast, the Italian branch of Conde Nast. The artwork was used on a cover for the popular men’s magazine GQ Italia in the July-August 2020 edition. The magazine used a lenticular cover image that superimposed the artwork over the model Pietro Boselli so that holding the cover in different directions revealed the different images.
In a statement, the museum claimed that by “insidiously and maliciously [juxtaposing] the image of Michelangelo’s David with that of a model,” the publisher was “debasing, obfuscating, mortifying, and humiliating the high symbolic and identity value of the work of art and subjugating it for advertising and editorial promotion purposes.”
The court ruled that the publisher must pay the museum two separate amounts: €20,000 for the licensing fee and an additional €30,000 for the way in which David’s image was distorted for the magazine.
Cecilie Hollberg, director of the Galleria dell’Accademia, called the ruling a “great achievement” for the institution. “A principle has now been affirmed that goes beyond the individual case,” she added.
It’s an interesting twist of life imitating art perhaps, with the humble museum taking on and winning against the large publishing house.