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Italy: bronze statue of scantily dressed woman sparks sexism row

·2-min read

A statue depicting a scantily dressed woman from a 19th-century poem has sparked a sexism row in Italy.

The bronze statue, which portrays the woman in a transparent dress, was unveiled on Saturday during a ceremony attended by the former prime minister Giuseppe Conte in Sapri, in the southern Campania region.

The work by the sculptor Emanuele Stifano is a tribute to La Spigolatrice di Sapri (The Gleaner of Sapri), written by the poet Luigi Mercantini in 1857. The poem is based on the story of a failed expedition against the Kingdom of Naples by Carlo Pisacane, one of the first Italian socialist thinkers.

Laura Boldrini, a deputy with the centre-left Democratic party, said the statue was an “offence to women and the history it should celebrate”. She wrote on Twitter: “But how can even the institutions accept the representation of a woman as a sexualised body?”

A group of female politicians from the Democratic party’s unit in Palermo called for the statue to be knocked down. “Once again, we have to suffer the humiliation of seeing ourselves represented in the form of a sexualised body, devoid of soul and without any connection with the social and political issues of the story,” the group said in a statement.

They argued that the statue reflected nothing of the anti-Bourbon revolution nor the “self-determination of a woman who chooses not to go to work in order to take sides against the oppressor”.

Stifano defended his work, writing on Facebook that if it had been up to him the statue would have been “completely naked … simply because I am a lover of the human body”. He said it was “useless” to try to explain artwork to those “who absolutely only want to see depravity”.

Antonio Gentile, the mayor of Sapri, said that until the row erupted “nobody had criticised or distorted the work of art”.

In photos of the ceremony, Conte, now the leader of the Five Star Movement, appeared puzzled as he looked at the statue, surrounded by a mostly male entourage.

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