Is it a breach of the Italian Cultural Heritage Code to feature on GQ a model posing like Michelangelo’s David? Yes, says Florence Court

· image rights,cultural heritage,Italy,Michelangelo,Pietro Boselli

As IPKat readers will be aware having this blog covered a number of cases already [see here for a compilation of Katposts], the Italian Cultural Heritage Code (ICHC) restricts the unauthorized commercial use of images of assets belonging to this country’s cultural heritage.

This is so irrespective of the copyright status of the asset in question.

To exemplify: in the past, Italian courts have considered it unlawful to reproduce the image of Michelangelo’s David (clearly, a work that is no longer protected by copyright) on unofficial tickets for the Florence museums [here and here].

Now, there is a new decision of the Florence Court of First Instance (sentenza 1027/2023) which poses a different and intriguing kind of question: Is it a breach of the ICHC to display, not the actual image of a cultural heritage asset, but rather an image that evokes such asset?

More specifically, is the image below, which clearly evokes Michelangelo’s David, an undue use of David’s image?

broken image

Let’s see more in detail what happened.


In spring 2020, GQ Italia asked the Galleria dell’Accademia - that is: the Florence museum where David is held - for permission to use the image of David on the cover of a then forthcoming issue of the magazine.

The director of Academia granted permission to use the image of David, upon condition that (i) no alteration of the image of David be undertaken and (ii) the same issue contain an article about the museum and Michelangelo’s work.

In the end, the negotiations provided fruitless and no agreement was concluded. This said, the July-August 2020 issue of GQ Italia was released with the image above as a cover.

The magazine cover, which features engineer, former postgraduate teaching assistant at University College London, and model Pietro Boselli, is