An official website and video using a computerized mascot inspired by Botticelli’s The birth of Venus (circa 1485) to promote tourism in Italy aroused much ridicule.

Meanwhile, an Italian campaign group has questioned whether the Uffizi Galleries, the museum in Florence where Botticelli’s painting is on display, had authorized the use of the image of Venus for the 9 million dollar campaign. euros.

Titled “Open to Meraviglia” (Open to Wonder), the campaign was designed by Italy’s tourism ministry in conjunction with the country’s tourism board, Enit, and features Venus as a “virtual influencer” donning a mini- skirt and take selfies in front of iconic landmarks, including Rome’s Colosseum and Florence Cathedral.

In a newspaper article Fatto Quotidiano, art historian Tomaso Montanari called the campaign, designed by communications group Armando Testa, “grotesque” and “shameful.” Art critic Vittorio Sgarbi, undersecretary in Italy’s culture ministry, asked in comments published in the newspaper The Republic: “Open to Meraviglia? What is it? What language is it?”.

Social media users derided the campaign after it emerged on Sunday that the video included footage showing a seemingly typical Italian scene of people drinking wine on a sunny terrace which was actually shot in Slovenia and featured star of Slovenian wine.

Commentators pointed to errors in the German version of the site, with names of towns like Cento and Brindisi being mistranslated into “Hundert” (hundred) and “Toast”.

Unveiling the campaign at a press conference on Thursday, Tourism Minister Daniela Santanchè said: “We are the most beautiful nation in the world but we are not the best at promoting ourselves. being Italian, of our identity”. .

But art and heritage campaign group Mi Riconosci described the campaign in a press release as “humiliating”, adding that it was “unclear” whether the Uffizi had consented to the use of the image of Venus for the campaign.

In a separate case in October, the Uffizi announced it would sue fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier for using depictions of Botticelli’s Venus on specially designed garments without first obtaining the museum’s consent.

The Italian Cultural Heritage Code requires anyone who uses public heritage images for commercial purposes to obtain prior authorization and pay a fee, although it allows free use of images for non-profit purposes, studies and research, and promotion of heritage culture.

A spokesperson for Mi Riconosci recounts The arts journal that the nature of the “Welcome to Meraviglia” campaign was “ambiguous” and “borderline”.

“There is always a fine line between commercial and promotional activity, and we believe that in this case that line has been crossed,” the spokesperson said.

A Uffizi spokesperson declined to comment when asked by The arts journal if the museum had provided permission for the use of the image.

Italy’s tourism ministry did not respond to a request for comment on the matter.

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