A replica of Michelangelo's masterpiece David, unveiled on Tuesday at the Italian Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion, was likened to a symbol of hope amid the global pandemic.
Described as the most accurate reproduction of Michelangelo's David, the 5.2-metre statue stands in the centre of Italy's pavilion.
Visitors will walk up a flight of stairs to view the replica of the 16th-century statue at eye level.
The unveiling was attended by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance and Co-existence, Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Co-operation and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio.
UAE and Italian ministers described the 3D copy of one of the world’s most famous marble sculptures as a symbol of hope, courage and a bridge of friendship between the two nations.
Noura Al Kaabi, UAE Minister of Culture and Youth, said the statue showed how Expo Dubai was on track to deliver a strong message and create history.
"It was a moment of awe" after the white curtain was removed to reveal the statue, she told The National.
“It is a moment of making history with our friends the Italians to have such a beautiful, identical version of a historical statue.
“It was a bold decision to show solidarity, to show the world needs unity and hope. This is a symbol of hope that we all need at this time.”
Cecilie Hollberg, director of the Accademia Gallery in Florence – home of the original masterpiece – said the statue represents how connections can help the world emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.
"This is an important message we have to give to the world. David is a symbol of freedom, independence and courage. He is strong but he is not violent," she said.
“This is because he has faith and we need this to live in this period. He struggled to save his own people and we need this to come out of this [pandemic].
"It shows how we need to be connected, even if we come from completely different worlds.
"David is one of the world's most important masterpieces by a young Michelangelo."
Dario Nardella, mayor of Florence, used the David v Goliath metaphor as the critical element needed to rekindle confidence in overcoming the coronavirus.
"We are suffering a lot from the consequences of Covid-19 – economic and social effects," Mr Nardella said.
"Now we need to have more hope, to reconquer hope for the future. David is a universal message of hope, peace and energy. You can see the energy through the eyes of this sculpture also.
“I hope this will represent a bridge between Dubai and Florence, between all Arabic countries and Italy as a message to humanity.
“We have a Goliath we are fighting, Covid-19, and after 600 years we are living the same history and we will defeat it.”
Mr Nardella hoped the World Fair would renew people's interest in visiting Italy.
“It’s a big emotion for me to see this here,” he said.
"I know this is not [the] original, but this is the brother of the original David. At this expo, you will see something like a new artwork made with new techniques that are so important.
"I'm sure millions who come here to Expo Dubai, after they see the David copy, will want to come and visit Florence."
Mr Di Maio said Italy understood more than most what the opening of Expo Dubai in October will mean to the UAE.
“We look forward to welcoming the world to the Italy pavilion later this year to enjoy an unprecedented journey through our country’s extraordinary past, present and future,” he said.
“As the hosts of the most recent World Expo in Milan in 2015, Italy recognises the significance of Expo 2020 as an important opportunity for cultural exchange, knowledge-sharing and the formation of new and fruitful connections.”
Closest replica to the original
Artists, computer experts and restorers took months to create a digital version based on more than 100,000 scans of the original David.
The acrylic resin statue, weighing 450 kilograms, was layered with marble powder and artists used their hands to reproduce cracks, dents and erosion.
The fragile work was then transported by plane to Dubai.
Ms Hollberg described the reproduction as the closest to the original as a result of 3D scanning technology.
“It is impressive,” she said.
“This is the first time that a replica in this dimension, at this scale, has been made. There are a lot of replicas, but this is the first made by very innovative technology that does not take away from the experience of viewing it.”