Rome: Italian government`s ownership over the sculpture of Biblical hero David made by Renaissance period artist Michelangelo has been challenged by a local authority which claims the heritage statue belongs to Florence city.
Italy`s culture minister Sandro Bondi Monday described as "absurd" and "inopportune" a row that has erupted between the government and Florence city council.
Lawyers for the culture minister have presented a nine-page document claiming the 5.17-metre high marble figure, which draws over 1.5 million visitors annually, belongs to the Italian state.
But the mayor of Florence, Tuscany`s famous art city, insists the masterpiece belongs to the city council.
Centre-left mayor Matteo Renzi argues that when Rome became the capital of Italy, a decree in 1870-1871 assigned Palazzo Vecchio - where David was erected in 1504 - and all its contents to Florence.
But the government strongly disputes this claim and argues that history is on its side.
"Against my will, I find myself involved once again in an absurd and inopportune row. Michelangelo`s David a symbol of cultural unity for Florence and for Italy," Bondi said in a statement Monday.
"For propaganda purposes, the mayor of Florence is resorting to low tricks in disputing the ownership of this work of art," the statement added.
The Italian state, not Florence city council - created when the city was part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany - is the legal successor to the Florentine Republic, according to government lawyers.
The sinuous sling-bearing David, the slayer of Goliath, is the main attraction at Palazzo Vecchio`s Accademia gallery, and is worth 8 million euros in annual ticket sales.
These ticket receipts are pocketed by the Italian government, along with 30 million euros of revenue from other Florence museums, including the world-famous Uffizi gallery.