Riace warrior Gerald Bruneau
The Riace warrior statue was dressed with a leopard thong and a pink feather boa. Getty Images

A photographer has sparked controversy for taking pictures of a famous Italian statue dressed in a leopard thong and a pink feather boa.

The statue, part of the duo known as 'Bronzi di Riace', or Riace Warriors, is in the National Archaeological Museum in the southern Italian region of Reggio Calabria.

The bronze statues, cast around 450 BC and found in the sea near the Italian town of Riace in 1972, are two of the most important and well-known Italian sculptures.

Photographer Gerald Bruneau was given permission last February to take pictures of the statue with a white veil in the background.

However, he was stopped as soon as he was caught dressing the warrior with the thong and the boa.

Museum superintendent Simonetta Bonomi, who commissioned Bruneau, told news agency Ansa: "He showed me a shot of the statue with white tulle behind and it was very nice.

"Then, unbeknownst to me, he took the other images, which are terrible.

"When the stewards noticed, they intervened and stopped him, but obviously he had already managed to take some shots."

Some of the images Bruneau managed to take before he was stopped were published in the Italian magazine Dagospia.

"I thought he would keep the photos for himself instead of publishing them, as he was not authorised," Bonomi said.

"It's curious that the pictures have emerged only now that there are rumours claiming the statues might be moved to another museum. It seems orchestrated."

A local politician has demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident.