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Italians angry over ad featuring Michelangelo's David toting a rifle

ArmaLite tweeted this image of the statue of David holding a gun last May, but it raised the ire of Italian officials only recently.

Story highlights

  • Minister to gun manufacturer: Stop using Michelangelo's David statue in ad
  • The ad shows David holding an AR-501A1 rifle and the words "A Work of Art"
  • Museum officials say David's image is copyrighted to Italy, state news says
  • ArmaLite's ad has been out since at least last May, but just got Italy's attention

Italians are bashing an American gun manufacturer's advertising campaign that uses the iconic statue of David holding an AR-50A1 rifle with the tagline, "A Work of Art."

Italy's minister of culture took to Twitter on Saturday and threatened legal action against the Illinois-based weapon manufacturer Armalite for using the image of Michelangelo's masterpiece to boost sales of a weapon that retails for about $3,300.

Dario Franceschini said that he wants ArmaLite to withdraw the image because it "offends and violates the law."

Cristina Acidini, the superintendent of the State Museums of Florence, added that the image of David is copyrighted to Italy and can't be used without permission, according to Italy's state run ANSA news agency.

CNN could not reach ArmaLite for comment. Still, the controversial ad of David holding the rifle isn't new: It's been out since at least last May, when it was posted to the company's Twitter feed.

ArmaLite's current image in the "A Work of Art" campaign shows a rifle hanging on a museum wall wedged between two iconic paintings -- the Mona Lisa and "American Gothic."

    Some Italians took to the U.S. company's Facebook page after finding out about their cultural minister's legal threat.

    "Why don't you use your own bloody monuments work of art?" asked one person.

    Another wrote: "Art is untouchable and can't be use to spread death. If you want to enrich your wallets use your own monuments, you have many."