The incident occurred at the Gipsoteca Museum in Italy when a tourist sat on Antonio Canova's statue of Paolina Bonaparte, causing two toes to break off of the plaster sculpture

By Gabrielle Chung
August 04, 2020 07:38 PM
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Gipsoteca Museum

An Austrian tourist is in hot water with museum officials in Italy after accidentally breaking the toes off of a 200-year-old statue while posing for a photo.

The incident occurred on July 31 at the Gipsoteca Museum in Possagno when he sat on Antonio Canova's statue of Paolina Bonaparte, causing two toes to break off of the plaster sculpture, the art gallery said in a statement.

According to the museum, the tourist quickly moved away from the exhibit without telling anyone, and staffers were only alerted of the damage after an alarm in the room went off.

The tourist was tracked down by police using personal information the guest had left with the museum for contact tracing in the event that a coronavirus outbreak is tied to the gallery, CNN reported.

Statue of Paolina Bonaparte
Antonio Masiello/Getty Images

Police told the outlet that the man was with eight other Austrian tourists and broke away from the group to take a picture of himself "sprawled over the statue." Security camera footage also captured the tourist jumping onto the base of the sculpture to get the selfie when he snapped off part of the artwork.

The tourist admitted to breaking the statue when police contacted him, CNN reported, calling it a "stupid move."

Vittorio Sgarbi, an art critic who serves as president of the Antonio Canova Foundation, called on the Italian police to not allow the unidentified tourist to "go unpunished and return home," writing on Facebook that his actions were "unacceptable."

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A court in Italy is currently deciding whether to press charges, according to CNN.

As for the statue itself, Museum Director Moira Mascotto said officials have found the broken pieces of the sculpture and are working on restoring it, Artnet reported.

"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 said in a statement on Saturday.