London, Aug.16 (ANI): The Italian Government and the Tuscan city of Florence are gearing up for a courtroom battle over the ownership of Michelangelo's famous statue of David.
Lawyers representing the Italian Ministry of Culture are reportedly using centuries old documents to claim that the famous marble figure, which brings in over eight million pounds a year, belongs to the state.
Authorities in Florence, however, insist the masterpiece is theirs, and they are prepared to fight for it, The Independent reports.
Maurizio Raugei and Luigi Andronio, lawyers acting on behalf of the Italian state and Culture Minister Sandro Bondi, say history is on their side, pointing to the patchwork of independent city states that made up the peninsula of Italy until the county was unified in 1861.
The lawyers say that Florence City Council, which was created when the city was part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, cannot be considered the "descendant" of the Florentine Republic, which existed when Michelangelo carved the statue.
The Renaissance legend was paid 400 florins for the work, which was commissioned in 1501 for Florence Cathedral, but when finished in 1504, was placed outside the city's Palazzo Della Signoria, the seat of local government.
Standing 17 feet high, it is based on the Biblical character of David, the boy who took on the mighty Philistine giant of Goliath and killed him with a single stone from his slingshot.
The statute came to symbolise the then Republic of Florence's stance against other more powerful states surrounding it and David's warring gaze was directed towards Rome.
Government lawyers insist that David is as a result an heirloom of no longer existing republics, and that following on from Italian unification in 1861 it is Italian and not Florentine.
Florence's centre left mayor Matteo Renzi said: "Contrary to what the State's lawyers say, we have documentary evidence which confirms that David belongs to the city of Florence.
"This government as we know is capable of many surprises but I hope they will see sense and realise that David is ours and I hope they will not cross the line on this matter."
The 500-year-old David is seen as a symbol of Italian culture and adorns postcards and guidebooks.
A man armed with a hammer smashed off some toes on David's left foot in 1991. Between 2003 and 2004, the statue underwent major clean up and restoration. (ANI)