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Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 16:10 GMT 17:10 UK
Rome uncovers topless treasures
Gian Lorenzo Bernini statues
The statues were covered for almost 150 years
A pair of bare-breasted sculptures by Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini have been unveiled after being hidden under bronze covers for almost 150 years.

The two sculptures, which represent the virtues of Truth and Charity, were designed by Bernini in the 17th Century for the chapel of a Portuguese aristocrat, Roderigo de Sylva.

They have been located in the chapel since they were completed in 1663, but were deemed offensive by religious leaders two centuries later, and covered up.

"The figures were particularly feminine in their faces, in their nudity, and very voluptuous," said Angela Negro of Rome's Culture Superintendency.

"Religious authorities thought they were not quite suitable for a church."

Cherub

Restorers working on the sculptures in the chapel, which is part of the St Isidore Church in Rome, were surprised to find them in perfect condition when they removed the covers earlier this year.

"Usually the parts which get covered also get chipped off," said Ms Negro.

"In this case the marble was perfectly preserved, as if the bronze had protected it."

However workers discovered another statue which had been covered up, of a marble cherub, had had parts removed.

The restoration project, which began in February 2002, has included cleaning up other marble statues and paintings in the chapel.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini is regarded as one of the finest Italian sculptors and architects of the 17th Century, and one of the pioneers of the Baroque era in art.

His most famous works include the piazza and colonnade of St Peter's in the Vatican, and the Fountain Of The Four Rivers situated in Rome's Piazza Navona.

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