An Austrian tourist visiting the Gypsotheca Antonio Canova Museum in Possagno, Italy on Friday, July 31 damaged an over 200-year-old sculpture. The unnamed man left the museum without anyone noticing the damage. Once the damage came to light, the tourist was tracked down and questioned. The man admitted to breaking three toes of the plaster model of "Paolina Borghese Bonaparte as Venus Victrix." A court is deliberating if the man is to be charged for the damage caused.

A group of Austrian tourists were among the many visitors to the Gypsotheca Antonio Canova Museum which houses works by the artist. Breaking away from the group, a 50-year-old man decided to take a selfie with the plaster model of Paolina Bonaparte. He decided that simply standing near the statue was not enough. The man thought he would climb onto the statue and sprawl on it for the picture.

The man jumped from the floor onto the base of the statue. In the process, he managed to smash against the toes of the figure breaking off three on the right foot. Without notifying the museum, the tourist left the scene.

When the museum authorities discovered the terrible dis-figuration of the artwork, they reviewed the surveillance footage. The footage captured the man's botched selfie attempt. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all visitors have to leave their contact information for the purpose of tracing if required. According to CNN, the man's wife had entered her details on behalf of the couple.

Local police contacted the woman using the personal information that she had provided. When she was called by the police, the woman tearfully confessed that her husband was the one responsible for the vandalism. The police also questioned the accidental statue vandal. He confessed to his actions. Both the husband and wife apologised for the incident. The name of the man has not been released by the police.

Vittorio Sgarbi, the president of the Antonio Canova Foundation, took to social media to condemn the actions of the tourist. He urged the police to take strict action and not allow the Austrian to return unpunished.

A court in Treviso is considering if the man is to be charged.

The sculpture that was damaged is the plaster model of the "Paolina Borghese Bonaparte as Venus Victrix". The model was used by Canova to create the marble sculpture which is kept at the Borghese Gallery in Rome.

Paolina Bonaparte
An Austrian tourist broke three toes off of the “Paolina Borghese Bonaparte as Venus Victrix” statue by Antonio Canova. (representational image) Antonio Canova / CC BY-SA