Berlusconi censors eighteenth century Italian painting

Tiepolo, La Verità svelata dal Tempo, uncensored version

From British daily The Guardian:

Truth, Lies and Berlusconi: Italy’s playboy premier accused of nudity cover-up

· Venetian master retouched by aides to conceal nipple
· Critics denounce move as ‘absurd and pathetic’

* John Hooper in Rome

* Monday August 4 2008

If there is any political leader on earth who would feel untroubled by the proximity of a lightly clad beauty, then it is surely Silvio Berlusconi.

The media mogul and Italy’s prime minister made a large part of his fortune televising variety shows packed with scarcely veiled, undulating female flesh. One of the members of his cabinet – the equal opportunities minister, Mara Carfagna – was until just a few years ago a topless model and showgirl on one of his television channels.

So it was with something approaching incredulity that it emerged yesterday that Berlusconi‘s staff had perpetrated an act of censorship worthy of the Victorians who fitted skirts to table legs.

Over the table at which Berlusconi holds press conferences in Palazzo Chigi, Italy’s equivalent of No 10 Downing Street, hangs a huge copy of a painting by the 18th-century Venetian master Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. It was selected by Berlusconi himself.

Slap in the middle of the painting is a neat, round female breast. During press conferences, as a commentator writing for the daily La Stampa noted, the breast floats above the prime minister’s head “like a halo”. This, it was felt, was too much for the sensibilities of a nation that – long before Berlusconi came along – had been feasting its eyes on half-naked Magdalenes and Minervas, not to mention the blatantly erotic statuary of Antonio Canova. Tiepolo’s breast, with attendant nipple, had to go.

Photos taken of the most recent press conference at Palazzo Chigi show the central figure has been retouched. An extra fold of clothing has appeared that covers the offending breast.

Berlusconi’s chief spin doctor, the junior minister Paolo Bonaiuti, told Corriere della Sera it was “an initiative of those on the staff of the prime minister who take care of Berlusconi’s image”. He went on: “That breast [and] that nipple ended up right in the shots the news bulletins used [for coverage of] the press conferences.”

He added that the prime minister’s image advisers feared that such a sight might offend the sensibilities of some television viewers. What is clear, however, is that the elimination of the breast, and its accompanying nipple, has offended at least as much the sensibilities of some of Berlusconi’s own admirers.

The art critic Vittorio Sgarbi, who was a junior culture minister in an earlier Berlusconi government, said : “I truly hope the decision to carry out this absurd, crazy, pathetic, comic and useless retouching has been carried out without [Berlusconi’s] knowledge. All the more so if the idea was to do him a favour by not associating in the public mind a boob with someone who is – how to say? – susceptible to female charm.”

Photos published yesterday showed the painting untouched in May. It appears therefore to have been covered at around the time the prime minister was becoming entangled in a succession of controversies involving women friends and associates.

Last month, he cancelled a television interview in which he was to have answered questions about his relationship with the 32-year-old Carfagna and the alleged existence of tapes of compromising exchanges between them. …

The Tiepolo controversy carries an added layer of interest because the lady who has been tampered with in the allegoric work is Truth. And her semi-nudity is central to the meaning of the work, entitled Time Unveiling Truth, painted around 1743.

In a very literal sense, it is about the “naked truth”. Floating on a cloud in one of Tiepolo’s hallmark, duck-egg blue skies, Truth cosies up to an elderly, bearded Time who has just apparently stripped her to the waist. In one hand, Truth holds a mirror that reflects her semi-nudity to a figure representing Lies. Unable to cope with the sight, he covers his eyes.

Opposition politicians can be expected to note that, now Truth has a new top fitted by Berlusconi’s image consultant, Lies should feel altogether more at ease in the office of Italy’s prime minister.

Italian government imposes national state of emergency: here.

PDCI congress in Italy: here.

Italy’s phoney “Robin Hood” tax: here.


20 thoughts on “Berlusconi censors eighteenth century Italian painting

  1. 2008-08-04 16:19
    Public opinion on troops mixed
    Soldiers arrive in Italian cities to help fight crime
    (by Fiona Winward).

    (ANSA) – Rome, August 4 – Italians and tourists on Monday had mixed reactions to the arrival of the first troops on city streets as the government’s scheme to use 3,000 soldiers to help police fight crime got under way. In Rome, around 400 of more than 1,000 troops expected in the capital arrived to patrol suburban metro stations, embassies, government buildings and an immigrant holding centre in the outskirts of the city. ”It’s ridiculous. It’s like being under a military regime, as if Rome were in (the Pinochet regime’s) Chile,” said a bus driver looking at an army jeep parked a few metres away at the Mattia Battistini metro station in the Rome suburbs.


  2. Death of an Italian fascist

    Admiral Gino Birindelli died in Rome last week. In 1971 he was in command of Nato’s Mediterranean fleet, which was based in Malta.

    That year saw a hard fought general election on the island during which the admiral warned if the Labour Party was elected “Malta would lose its freedom” and that the party’s leader, Dom Mintoff would allow the Russians to use it as a naval base.

    Labour did win, by a narrow majority, and Mintoff expelled the admiral from Malta.

    On his return to Italy Birindelli was elected to parliament as a neo-fascist MP.

    Mintoff succeeded in getting the naval base shut down. During the 1990s he was sidelined in the Maltese Labour Party, regarded as being Old Labour.

    Elena Cachia, West London


  3. 2008-08-20 18:23

    Row over Communist custody boy
    Youth’s party membership used against him, politicians say

    (ANSA) – Catania, August 20 – Members of Italy’s Communist parties were up in arms on Wednesday after a Catania court took a 16-year-old boy away from his mother, allegedly because he was a youth member of the Communist Refoundation Party (PDR).

    Custody of the boy, identified as M.P., and his 11-year-old brother was granted to his father after social services told the court the boy ”visited places frequented by young people where the use of alcoholic and psychotropic substances is widespread”.

    They described the young communists with whom the boy associated as ”extreme”.

    The boy’s mother was also blamed for hiding his irregular school attendance from her husband and for allowing the boy to stay out over night.

    But Communist politicians jumped on the court decision as politically motivated.

    PDR leader Paolo Ferrero said the decision was ”unacceptable” and asked President Giorgio Napoletano to intervene in what he described as ”an extremely serious Constitutional violation”.

    Orazio Licandro of the Italian Communist Party backed Ferrero’s comments.

    ”Isn’t Italy a democratic country? Are the Communists now an extremist organisation just because we don’t have any seats in parliament?” he asked, referring to the knock-out of Communist candidates in April’s general elections.

    ”I think this matter just goes to show that being a Communist in southern Italy is difficult and dangerous,” he added.

    But the judge, Massimo Escher, shot down criticism of his decision, which he said was unconnected to the boy’s political affiliations and based on the mother’s lack of parenting skills.

    Escher said the 16-year-old was living ”without rules” and referred to the woman’s ”difficulty in managing her son”.

    The mother’s lawyer, Mario Giarruso, said they were still trying to come to terms with the judge’s decision.

    ”The boy does not take drugs, he hasn’t committed crimes,” he said.

    The 16-year-old was also unhappy with the outcome, saying that his father ”does nothing but associate communists with drugs, alcohol and a wayward life”.

    The court ruled that the boy’s mother, who is a doctor, must pay her city council worker husband 200 euros a month in maintenance.

    It also awarded the family home to the father.


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