Page last updated at 18:28 GMT, Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Naked taoiseach paintings removed

Image of man looking at painting
The painting was removed from display at the Royal Hibernian Academy

It could be described as oil on canvas featuring taoiseach, but the appearance of nude paintings of Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen in two Dublin galleries has seen the police called in.

A painting of Mr Cowen holding his underpants appeared in the Royal Hibernian Academy and one of him pictured on the toilet ended up in the National Gallery.

Whether it was political subversion or artistic expression if the painter behind them comes to light they could find themselves answering questions from Irish police.

The National Gallery said they had called in the police and were reluctant to comment further on the matter, other than to say the painting had been up for no more than 20 minutes before it was removed.

"It was not authorised to be on display and garda are investigating," the gallery said.

The academy is also deciding whether or not to call in the police to investigate its mysterious appearance, but a spokeswoman did not want to go further.

"We don't want to make more of it than it is," she said.

The painting of Mr Cowen is still on the premises, but in one of the offices instead of on public view.

One woman who saw the painting reportedly offered to buy it.

Apology

Irish police are in possession of the other work, and have said that an investigation into the matter is under way.

State broadcaster RTE said it would be making an on air apology after showing pictures of the portraits in its output.

A spokeswoman for the corporation said that upon reflection this was "in bad taste".



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