Prosecutors probe damaged Bernini elephant statue in Rome

Rome, Nov 16 (IANS/AKI) Prosecutors on Tuesday opened an investigation into damage caused to one of Rome’s most famous statues – 17th-century sculptor Bernini’s Elephant and Obelisk at Piazza Minerva near the Pantheon.

The prosecutors said they were examining statements from Spanish tourists who alerted police on Sunday that one of the elephant’s tusks had been snapped off. Investigators are also viewing security camera footage from the area in a bid to identify any culprits.

The broken fragment was lying on the floor by the statue and was recovered by firemen.

Initial assessments of damage to the statue suggested it would take “a few days” before attempts were made to repair the statue, Rome’s Mayor Virginia Raggi said.

“The defaced image of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s elephant hurts all Romans. For us the protection of the city’s heritage is crucial,” Raggi stated.

The damage to the landmark statue could be “irreversible” like that wrought on Bernini’s famous boat-shaped Barcaccia fountain at Rome’s Spanish Steps by drunk Dutch football fans in February last year, warned local councillor Nathalie Naim.

Naim shared photographs of the elephant’s tusk fragment on Facebook and called for better protection for Rome’s monuments.

Bernini’s elephant was commissioned in 1667 by Pope Alexander VII, to support an ancient Egyptian obelisk that had only recently been discovered in the Italian capital.