Pope Benedict XVI is quite an animal lover (as we noted here). But he is also quite the esthete, and this sculpture, in a museum in Bolzano, the northern Italian town near where the pontiff vacations, apparently went too far for his tastes.
According to a CNS story, the sculpture set off protests this summer that reached the pope’s ears when he visited in July. His Secretary of State (sort of the vice-pope) then sent a letter of support to a local official who was leading the charge to have the frog, er, dissected. The letter reportedly said the pope believes the sculpture “has wounded the religious sentiment of the many people who see in the cross the symbol of God’s love and our salvation.”
Yes, on one level. As the CNS story says, the sculpture “depicts a green frog nailed to the cross, holding a beer stein in one hand and an egg in the other. Its eyes are crossed and its tongue hangs out of its mouth.”
But let me play froggy’s advocate here–this isn’t an Andres Serrano “Piss Christ” or Madonna of the Elephnat Dung or whatever that Brooklyn Museum of Art piece was a few years back.
The sculpture is the work of the German artist Martin Kippenberger, who died in 1997 at the age of 44, a tormented figure himself, it seems:
“Museum officials have defended the work, saying it was intended as a self-portrait showing the torment faced by the artist. The sculpture was made in 1990, and the artist, who was said to consider the frog his alter ego, created other variations on the same theme.”
In a more detailed ANSA report, museum officials said they have moved the frog to a less prominent place, but have delined to remove it altogether. They said it is a self-portrait of the artist ”in a state of profound crisis” and is not an attack on religious feeling.
Sure, not quite the imitation of Christ most might like–certainly not B16–but powerful in its own way, perhaps. Intention is everything. Almost.