By Tim Binnall
Art aficionados in Italy are fuming following an unfortunate incident in which an Austrian tourist visiting one of country's museums wound up snapping the toes off of a 200-year-old statue while posing for a photo atop the piece. The bizarre case of inadvertent vandalism reportedly occurred at the Gipsoteca Museum in the community of Possagno last Friday afternoon when the unnamed individual was admiring a plaster model which had been used by artist Antonio Canova to create a marble sculpture titled 'Paolina Borghese Bonaparte as Venus Victrix.'
Apparently quite enamored with the work, the tourist made the ill-advised decision to climb onto the piece and pose for a photo with it. However, the weight of the somewhat stout museum patron was apparently too much for the plaster model to bear as three toes broke off of the foot of the woman depicted in the sculpture. In a somewhat amusing piece of security camera footage showing the incident, the man can be seen realizing what he had done, nervously walking around in front of the piece for a few seconds, and then making a hasty retreat from the scene.
According to a Facebook post from the museum, the damage to the statue was noticed by a guard shortly thereafter and an investigation was immediately launched to determine what had happened. Fortunately, due to rules brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, every patron who entered the facility that day had provided their name and contact information at the front desk, so locating the perpetrator proved to be rather easy. Working their way down the list, authorities eventually phoned a woman who, one guesses, had been anxiously awaiting such a call as she immediately began crying and revealed that her husband had broken the centuries-old piece of artwork.
It has yet to be determined what will become of the tourist now, although the head of the Antonio Canova Foundation expressed outrage over the incident. Calling for the man to be punished and forced to return to Austria, Vittorio Sgarbi declared that "the scarring of a Canova is unacceptable." Be that as it may, the decision on whether or not the man will face charges for the damage done to the piece is currently being mulled over by local authorities. Regardless of what they decide, it's probably a safe bet that the toe-breaking tourist will never be allowed to set foot in the museum again.