A beautiful fresco painted by Pinturicchio in 1492 is stirring up fresh controversy with the announcement that a fragment of the 'scandalous' artwork will be put on display in Rome's Capitoline Museums.
The painting was commissioned to by Pope Alexander VI to decorate the walls of his apartment in the Papal residence. But Pope Alexander brought so much shame upon the Vatican that the fresco created in his honor was eventually destroyed.
Pope Alexander VI fathered seven children and kept several mistresses. Pinturicchio made a less than subtle allusion to these indiscretions by modelling the Virgin Mary after one of the Pope's young mistresses, Giulia Farnese. Alexander was depicted kneeling at her feet.
After Pope Alexander VI's death in 1503, the fresco was shrouded in cloth, as the Vatican tried to hide the Borgia Pope from memory. Covered for 150 years, the fresco was hammered away and destroyed in the 17th century.
Luckily for art lovers everywhere, a fragment of the original mural surfaced in an antique market in 2004.
What remains of the painting is a cherubic baby Jesus seated on Mary's lap. The Christ child is surrounded by a halo of pure gold.
The Vatican, which might prefer to forget the blasphemous artwork all together, may find that the painting has returned to a spot too close for comfort. The surviving fragment goes on display in Rome on the 22nd of December.