A piece of religious art has been removed from a basilica in Italy after a local priest and businessman commissioned the painting found among the holy pictures.
The painting was donated to the church of Canosa in Puglia, southern Italy, but caused controversy upon further examination.
The picture shows the owner of the charity having commissioned a £17,000 painting of an encounter with Saint Benedict, as well as the priest who runs the church.
The artist wanted to portray the ‘two authoritative representatives’ of the community
People have shared online copies of the artwork with other famous faces inserted into the canvas.
Giuseppe Antonio Lomuscio, the artist behind the painting, told local media that he claims “total autonomy in my interpretation choices”.
He said his choice of subjects featured in the composition was “the result of a liberal artistic interpretation dictated by the need to tell the story of devotion to the saints”.
Mr. Lomuscio said he decided to portrait “two authoritative representatives” of the local community.
Illustrations will be edited
During the process, he said, both of them asked not to play the part.
But it seems he tried to make them less obvious by adding a COVID mask to Sergio Fontana, president of the Canosa Archaeological Foundation, and hiding Father Felice Bacco behind a cross.
Mr. Lomuscio has since said he was open to revising the work before it was put on display again.