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Italy abuzz over artwork of half-naked premier

Italy premier Silvio Berlusconi appears with a giant pair of wings and little else in a new work of art that is creating a sensation.
Image: Berlusconi art
Artwork by Filippo Panseca depicts Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi with a giant pair of wings and little else, with an equally topless female minister of his government, Mara Carfagna.Italo Banchero / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The premier has no clothes.

Silvio Berlusconi appears with a giant pair of wings and little else in a new work of art, an equally scantily clad female minister next to him in the composition that is creating a sensation.

"I did it as a joke!" the artist, Filippo Panseca, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. "I've been doing all sorts of works for 50 years, I didn't expect to raise such clamor with this."

The work is all the more controversial because the minister portrayed next to the Italian premier, Mara Carfagna, had been on the receiving end of a Berlusconi compliment two years ago.

"If I weren't married I would marry you immediately," Berlusconi reportedly said to the woman, a 33-year-old former TV starlet who currently serves as minister for equal opportunities. The comment at the time enraged Berlusconi's wife, who publicly demanded an apology.

The work shows Berlusconi, bare torso, with wings extending around Carfagna and a piece of cloth covering his private parts. Carfagna, her chest also bare and a red cloth below her belly, is turned toward Berlusconi, their heads close but eyes not looking at each other.

The work has been reproduced on many Italian newspapers and Internet Web sites.

Panseca said the work is based on photos of the two subjects he saw on the Internet, which were then digitally altered. Their heads are pasted on the naked, almost neoclassical-looking figures.

'Idyllic, bucolic image'
"I did an elaboration and came up with an idyllic, bucolic image," Panseca said in the phone interview.

There was no comment from Carfagna, who in recent months has tried to counter her former image as TV beauty with a somber style — chaste suits and a short haircut.

The 72-year old Berlusconi, known for his flamboyant style and appreciation for female beauty, has also not publicly commented.

The 55-by-55-inch canvas, which Panseca said was completed last month, went on display for the first time as part of an art exhibition in Savona, on Italy's northwestern coast.

Also on display is a separate work by Panseca showing Berlusconi's wife, a former actress. Veronica Lario is shown as a winged figure, naked, a large bust exposed in the painting that dates to 1992 and has been shown in Milan before.

The show, Art&Savonnerie, opened Sunday and runs through May 10.

Panseca said he has not talked to either Berlusconi or Carfagna. He said he would be happy for Berlusconi to buy the work, at a price of the premier's choosing. He said he would give the entire amount to victims of the quake that hit Italy earlier this month.

"If he wants it, he can have it," Panseca said. "I cannot give it as a present as it would be further imposition."

Panseca, a Palermo native, was prominent in the 1980s because he was the set designer at party meetings and other events for another politician, the late Socialist leader Bettino Craxi, then at the height of his power. Craxi, who died in the year 2000 in disgrace following corruption scandals, was close to Berlusconi, then a media tycoon based in Milan.