Florence mayor draped David statue as sign of mourning for those killed in Ukraine war.
Police in Florence arrested a man on Friday night for setting fire to the enormous black drape covering the replica of Michelangelo's statue of David in Piazza della Signoria.
Florence mayor Dario Nardella covered the statue on 6 March, the anniversary of Michelangelo’s birth, in a symbolic sign of "mourning and pain" for the war in Ukraine.
The man arrested, Czech citizen Vaclav Pisvejcv, is currently detained in the city's Sollicciano prison on charges of arson and is already known to police as a "serial defacer" of monuments, reports state broadcaster RAI News.
Earlier this week Pisvejcv was cited for vandalising Francesco Vezzoli's monumental Pietà sculpture of a rampant lion, also in Piazza della Signoria, spray-painting the statue with the blue and yellow colours of the Ukrainian flag.
Pisvejcv, who is also known for having hit Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović on the head with a painting in 2018, was apprehended by a security guard and a city police officer after setting fire to the drape over the David statue.
Police extinguished the flames before the arrival of the fire brigade, and the city's fine arts service is to inspect the statue for signs of damage.
"David is the symbol of freedom, the Ukrainians for us are the David who fights against the tyranny of Goliath" - Mayor Nardella is quoted in Italian newspaper La Repubblica - "We hope to remove the drape soon. For the moment the idea is to keep it until the end of the war."
There has been a mixed reaction in Italy to the covering of David, however, with many people of the view that it is ill-conceived to obscure the solitary hero as he faces down the might of the enemy on his own.
Among those against the gesture is Eike Schmidt, director of the Uffizi Galleries, who told La Repubblica that "just like it was a mistake to cover the statues of the Capitoline Museums for the visit of the Iranian president in 2016, for alleged reasons of modesty, it is also a mistake now."
Schmidt added that to cover statues, "for whatever reason, is tantamount to censorship, and therefore is opposed to the foundations of a free society.”
The burning of the drape around David occurred on the eve of a major pro-Ukraine rally in Florence, a city twinned with the Ukrainian capital Kyiv since 1967.
The replica of David, sculpted by Luigi Arrighetti, was placed in Piazza della Signoria in 1910 after Michelangelo's original masterpiece was moved indoors to the Galleria dell'Accademia in 1873.
The three Pietà sculptures by Michelangelo are currently on display together for the first time in an exhibition at the Museo Opera del Duomo in Florence, until 1 August 2022.
Cover photo Tgcom24 - Mediaset Infinity.
View on Map
Ukraine: Man sets fire to drape over David statue in Florence
P.za della Signoria, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy