Ancient statue in Italian Premier`s office repaired

Critics say the repairs cost Italian taxpayers EUR 70,000.

Last Updated: Nov 19, 2010, 12:24 PM IST

Rome: Italy`s Premier Silvio Berlusconi ordered controversial repairs to a 2nd century AD marble statue at his Rome office, which included adding a new penis.

Critics say the repairs, which cost Italian taxpayers EUR 70,000, amount to "aesthetic surgery and alter the authenticity of the work".

Restorers replaced the long-lost penis of ancient Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, who is portrayed in the priceless statue as the god of war, Mars, and replaced his missing right hand.

The restorers also replaced the missing right hand and nose of the emperor`s wife Faustina the Younger, who is portrayed as Venus, the goddess of love.

The statue has been placed against a `kitsch` blue backdrop, at the request of the architect who oversaw the work, Mario Catalano, according to Italian daily La Repubblica.

Catalano hit back at criticism that he had ignored traditional restoration techniques. The statue`s restoration was fully authorised and body parts were "removable", he said.

The costly repairs were carried out as the government planned to cut Italy culture budget for 2011 by 46 percent, La Repubblica noted.

Opposition centre-left Democratic Party MP Manuela Ghizzoni described the restoration of the 175 AD statue as "aesthetic surgery".

"This is real aesthetic surgery carried out at Prime Minister`s personal whim," Ghizzoni stated. She asked Italy`s Culture Minister Sandro Bondi to report on the case.

Berlusconi sparked earlier controversy when he moved the 1,400 kg statue from Rome`s Terme di Diocleziano museum to his office at the 17th-century Palazzo Chigi.

Berlusconi is currently embroiled in several new sex scandals involving a prostitute and a teenage nightclub dancer who says she attended after-dinner sex games at his villa in Arcore, near Milan. He was earlier linked to a teenage underwear model and another prostitute.

The 74-year-old Premier has decried what he calls "indecent attacks" against him.

IANS