A statue depicting a scantily dressed female gleaner from a 19th century Italian poem has sparked a sexism row in Italy.
The bronze statue, which portrays the gleaner wearing a transparent dress, was unveiled on Saturday during a ceremony attended by the former prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, in Sapri, a town in the southern Campania region.
By sculptor Emanuele Stifano, the artwork 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 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 reflects 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 had it 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 leader of the Five Star Movement, appeared puzzled as he looked at the statue, surrounded by a mostly male entourage.