Lawyers for the Italian Ministry of Culture have dredged up documents from centuries ago to prepare a case which says the marble figure - which draws more than £8 million from 1.5 million visitors who flock to see the masterpiece each year - belongs to the state.
However, the Tuscan city of Florence, where David is the star attraction at the Accademia gallery, insists the masterpiece is theirs. Maurizio Raugei and Luigi Andronio, lawyers acting on behalf of Sandro Bondi, the Italian culture minister, say history is on their side, Telegraph.co.uk informs.
In a country where local loyalties often triumph over national pride, the reaction in Florence was fast and furious, starting with the mayor. "With all due respect to Roman lawyers," said Matteo Renzi, "the unquestioned documents in the possession of the city and the state are clear: David belongs to Florence."
In a nine-page document, the legal team from Rome argues that the state of Italy, not the city of Florence, is the legal successor to the Florentine Republic, which funded the purchase of the sinuous, sling-bearing David that Michelangelo daringly carved from an awkwardly sized block of Carrara marble that had lain unused in Florence for decades, The Guardian reports.