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Last Updated: Saturday, 25 June, 2005, 21:36 GMT 22:36 UK
Curtains up on risque US statues
John Ashcroft speaking in front of the Spirit of Justice
John Ashcroft said the curtains were installed for "remodelling"
A pair of risque Art Deco statues at the US Justice Department have been quietly put back on show, three years after a mysterious cover-up.

Majesty of Justice and Spirit of Justice depict a partially nude man and a woman with one breast fully exposed.

The two sculptures, in the building's famous Great Hall, were covered during the tenure of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, a devout Christian.

A spokesman said new Attorney General Alberto Gonzales backed the unveiling.

But the decision to remove the curtains which covered the two statues was taken by an assistant attorney general, and not Mr Gonzales himself, the spokesman added.

Mr Gonzales "agreed with the recommendation", Kevin Madden said.

Photo favourite

The two statues, cast in aluminium and designed by renowned artist Paul Jennewein, have stood on opposite flanks of the stage in the Great Hall since the building opened in 1936.

Covering the statues with curtains cost the US government $8,000 (4,400) in 2002.

Mr Ashcroft repeatedly played down suggestions that he ordered the statues to be covered.

But he was often pilloried by comedians and was forced to make a joke out of the issue on the David Letterman Show.

Before being covered, the statues offered rich pickings for press photographers working at the Justice Department, who often crouched on the floor to capture politicians in shot with an exposed aluminium breast.

Perhaps the most famous photograph of the statue is a 1986 photograph of Edwin Meese brandishing a copy of his report on pornography with Spirit of Justice clearly visible in the background.

Profile: John Ashcroft
10 Nov 04 |  Americas
Profile: Alberto Gonzales
03 Feb 05 |  Americas

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