A religious work of art has been removed from an Italian basilica after a local priest and the businessman who commissioned the painting were found among the holy images.
The painting was gifted to the cathedral of Canosa in Puglia, southern Italy, but caused controversy upon further inspection.
The image featured the boss of the charity which commissioned the £17,000 painting of St Sabinus meeting St Benedict, as well as the priest who runs the cathedral.
Artist wanted to portray ‘two authoritative representatives’ of community
People shared their own reproductions of the artwork online featuring other famous faces inserted on to the canvas.
Giuseppe Antonio Lomuscio, the artist behind the painting, told local media that he claims “full autonomy in my interpretive choices”.
He said his choice of the subjects represented in the composition was the “result of a free artistic interpretation dictated by the need to tell the story of devotion to the Saints”.
Mr Lomuscio said he had decided to portray “two authoritative representatives” of the local community.
Artwork will be revised
He said during the process they had both asked not to be portrayed.
But it seems he tried to make them less evident by adding a COVID face mask to Sergio Fontana, president of the Archaeological Foundation of Canosa, and hiding Father Felice Bacco behind a cross.
Mr Lomuscio has since said he is willing to revise the work before it goes back on display.