Tourist snaps toes off 19th century statue while posing for photo: report

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An Austrian tourist damaged a plaster model of a 200-year-old sculpture in Italy last week while posing for a photo with the artwork, according to multiple reports.

The unidentified visitor turned himself in yesterday just days after he sat on Antonio Canova’s statue of Paolina Bonaparte so he could get a good picture, causing at least two of its toes to break off, according to the Museum Gipsoteca Antonio Canova in Possagno, Italy.

“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 what our history and culture testifies and that must be proudly handed down to future generations,” the museum wrote on Facebook.

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The tourist quickly moved away from the damaged work and failed to alert staff to the July 31 incident, the museum said. A few minutes later a guard noticed the broken artwork and an emergency situation was declared. Surveillance footage would later confirm what had happened.

The damaged piece is the plaster model for Canova’s marble sculpture of Paolina Bonaparte. Created in the early 1800s, it depicts Bonaparte — the sister of Napoleon — as the Roman goddess of love and is housed in the Galleria Borghese in Rome, according to ARTNews.

Visitors wearing a face mask view "Paolina Borghese Bonaparte as Venus Victrix", an 1805-1808 marble sculpture by Antonio Canova at the Galleria Borghese museum in Rome on May 19, 2020. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images)

Visitors wearing a face mask view “Paolina Borghese Bonaparte as Venus Victrix”, an 1805-1808 marble sculpture by Antonio Canova at the Galleria Borghese museum in Rome on May 19, 2020. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP) (Photo by TIZIANA FABI/AFP via Getty Images)

On Wednesday, the museum announced the tourist had turned himself and had written a letter to the President of the Canova Foundation, Vittorio Sgarbi.

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“During the visit, I sat on the statue, without realizing the damage I evidently caused,” the man wrote, according to the museum. “I ask you for information on the steps that are necessary on my part in this very unpleasant situation for me and for which, firstly, I apologize in every way.”

The tourist said that he read about the incident from the local Austrian newspapers which caused him to get in touch with the necessary parties. He added that he didn’t try to escape the scene and deemed his behavior as irresponsible.

The museum said it is making plans to restore the damaged sculpture, according to the magazine.

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Canova was a famous neoclassical sculptor known for his marble statues. He died in 1822 at the age of 64.



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