Rome police looking for vandals who broke elephant tusk

The statue (above), which has stood for around 350 years in a little square near the Pantheon, had the tip of its left tusk broken off.
The statue (above), which has stood for around 350 years in a little square near the Pantheon, had the tip of its left tusk broken off. PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
The statue, which has stood for around 350 years in a little square near the Pantheon, had the tip of its left tusk broken off (above).
The statue, which has stood for around 350 years in a little square near the Pantheon, had the tip of its left tusk broken off (above). PHOTOS: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

ROME • Police in Rome are examining closed-circuit television footage in a bid to identify vandals who damaged one of the city's most famous pieces of public sculpture, Bernini's Elephant and Obelisk.

The landmark work, tucked away in a little square near the Pantheon, features an elephant carrying an obelisk on its back. It was first placed in front of the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva Basilica, in the Piazza della Minerva, in 1667.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the leading sculptor of his age, oversaw the sculpture of the elephant, which had the tip of its left tusk broken off some time overnight on Sunday.

Spanish tourists alerted local police to the damage on Monday. The authorities recovered the piece at the foot of the statue. Police were checking video in the area to identify the vandals, according to AP.

The elephant was commissioned by then Pope Alexander VII, to support an obelisk from ancient Egypt that had only recently been excavated at the time.

"The defaced image of Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Elephant hurts all Romans. For us the protection of the city's heritage is crucial," Ms Virginia Raggi, Rome's newly elected mayor, told The Telegraph.

NEED FOR PROTECTION

The defaced image of Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Elephant hurts all Romans. For us the protection of the city's heritage is crucial.

ROME'S NEWLY ELECTED MAYOR VIRGINIA RAGGI

"A first estimate of the damage suggests that it will be a few days before we try and re-attach the fragment and return the statue to its former glory," the mayor said.

A local councillor, Ms Nathalie Naim, called for better protection to be provided to monuments all over Rome.

"We owe it to future generations to look after these monuments. They don't belong to us, we are only their guardians!!!" she wrote on Facebook.

The damage to the Bernini elephant comes after fans of Dutch football club Feyenoord caused outrage in February last year by damaging a fountain created by the sculptor that stands at the bottom of Rome's fabled Spanish Steps.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2016, with the headline 'Rome police looking for vandals who broke elephant tusk'. Print Edition | Subscribe