Tourist confesses to snapping toe off 200-year-old Canova sculpture while taking selfie

Police have identified the man caught on CCTV as a 50-year-old Austrian tourist

CCTV footage of the man reclining on the Canova sculpture. Fair use

CCTV footage has caught a visitor to Gipsoteca Museum in Possagno, northern Italy, damaging a nineteenth-century plaster model by the sculptor Antonio Canova while taking a photograph.

The tourist has been identified by police as a 50-year-old tourist from Austria – he left contact details with the museum due to COVID-19 regulations. In CCTV footage, the man – wearing a green t-shirt and black shorts – appeared to sprawl himself over Canova’s Paolina Borghese Bonaparte as Venus Victrix while posing for a selfie, accidentally breaking three of the sculpture’s toes.

The man later confessed to the ‘stupid move’, according to a statement issued by the Treviso Carabinieri, the local law enforcement agency. President of the Antonio Canova Foundation Vittorio Sgarbi wrote in a Facebook post that the perpetrator must not ‘remain unpunished and return to his homeland. The scarring of a Canova is unacceptable.’

Antonio Canova, Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix, 1805. Courtesy: Borghese Gallery, Rome; Wikimedia Commons

The damaged artwork is the original plaster cast model – made in 1804 – from which the sculptor later worked to create a marble statue currently held in the Borghese Gallery in Rome. ‘There could be further damage to the base of the sculpture that the museum experts still have to ascertain,’ investigators told CNN.

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