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Mermaid monument that is “too provocative” sparks controversy in southern Italy

Artwork became a target of ridicule after photos were shared on social media

The voluptuous statue of a mermaid placed in a square in a fishing village in Puglia, southern Italy, has caused a stir for being “too provocative”.

The statue was created by students at the Luigi Rosso art school in Monopoli before being positioned in a square named after the scientist Rita Levi-Montalcini.

The artwork, which is yet to be officially inaugurated, became a target of ridicule after photos taken during its installation were shared on social media.

The Bari-based actor Tiziana Schiavarelli wrote on Facebook that a friend in Monopoli had “rightly expressed some perplexity about this ‘monument’”.

“It looks like a mermaid with two silicone breasts and, above all, a huge arse never seen before on a mermaid. At least not any I know.”

Schiavarelli stressed that she did not have an issue with the art students or the local council, which had commissioned the work. “But I am very amused by this thing … who knows if it will become a further attraction for tourists,” she added.

Adolfo Marciano, the headteacher of the Luigi Rosso art school, defended the statue, saying it was a “tribute to the great majority of women who are curvy”. He explained that the students were tasked by the mayor of Monopoli to create several statues for the town, including one on the theme of the sea.

“The students got together and came up with the idea of a mermaid,” Marciano said. “The council was shown the scale model and said it was good, and then decided the completed sculpture would be placed in the square.”

Marciano said he did not want to cast judgement on the students’ inspiration, but that he viewed the work “as a representation of reality, in this case of the female body”.

He added: “You see adverts on television with models who are very thin, but the mermaid is like a tribute to the great majority of women who are curvy, especially in our country. It would have been very bad if we had represented a woman who was extremely skinny.”

Beppe, who lives in Monopoli, said the sculpture, which has been kept covered until its inauguration, had caused much discussion in recent days, with some people criticising it as “too provocative”.

“It’s a shame as the art students deserve to be praised instead of criticised,” he said.

The students also created a statue dedicated to the victims of workplace accidents, which will be unveiled on Monday. “This is much more important than the mermaid,” said Marciano.

Female statues in other areas of Italy have caused similar controversy. In 2021, a bronze statue portraying a woman in a transparent dress in the Campania town of Sapri sparked a sexism row. The work, by the sculptor Emanuele Stifano, was intended as a tribute to La Spigolatrice di Sapri (The Gleaner of Sapri), written by the poet Luigi Mercantini in 1857.

The statue, which was branded “an offence to women”, was unveiled during a ceremony attended by the former prime minister Giuseppe Conte. – Guardian Service


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