You know that old saying, ‘You break it, you buy it?’ Well, one tourist is about to find out how priceless Italian art is.
On Friday, July 31, an Austrian man visited the Gipsoteca Museum Antonio Canova in Possagno, Italy. He was with a group of eight other people when he broke off to get a picture with the plaster rendition of the famous Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix. The man plopped down next to the statue to capture the perfect selfie. Upon standing, he realized he had broken off two of the figure’s toes. The unidentified man then glances around the room before casual strolling away.
Security cameras caught the incident on video, and a silent alarm alerted staff a sculpture had been touched. Police identified the man and tracked him down through personal information given for contact tracing purposes. The man admitted to his crime, reportedly stating it was, “a stupid move.”
The Italian courts are still deciding whether to press charges against the man. There is also new proposed legislation that would increase the maximum sentencing for vandalizing art. The punishment would go up to 8 years in prison with a $117,000 fine.
Museum staffers were able to recover the missing toes, which director Moira Mascotto said will help in the restoration process. The statue has undergone restoration work in the past. In 2004, its head was reattached, and repairs were made to the cloth, hands, and feet. The damages were sustained during a World War I air raid when the museum was bombed.
Pauline Bonaparte as Venus Victrix is part of the museum collection of Canova original plaster models. The marble version of the statue is safe and unharmed in Rome.
A statement issued by the museum said, “We reiterate that our heritage must be protected: adopting responsible behavior within the Museum while respecting the works and goods preserved in it is not only a civic duty but a sign of respect for our history and culture.”