"Is he dead or just sleeping?" wonder visitors to Antonio Garullo and Mario Ottocento's incredibly life-like wax effigy of former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.
Artists Garullo and Ottocento, the first gay Italian couple to marry, see their work as a reference to the post-mortum treatment of saints and important public figures. "Berlusconi" lies in a gilded glass coffin on a red velvet carpet with a gold satin pillow at its head, similar to the public funerary display of the bodies heroes and other popular public figures.
In a tousled dark blue suit with tie loosened and pants unzipped, the Berlusconi figure smiles with pure contentment as if he is resting after one of his now infamous "bunga bunga" parties. The figure's left hand even appears to be reaching into his pants, furthering the reference to his active private life.
The artists aim to call into question the cult of personality that still follows Berlusconi despite his well-publicized illicit activities. Even the exhibition's title "Il sogno degli italiani" (The Dream of Italians) draws its inspiration from Berlusconi's infamous escapades. He purportedly called himself this on the phone with one of his former girlfriends.
Two other key objects in the glass coffin, a pair of Mickey Mouse slippers and an illustrated copy of the History of Italy, continue the allegory. The figure's right hand rests on the History of Italy, as if taking an oath on the sanctity of the state, but his slipers imply that he never takes anything--even death--too seriously.
Berlusconi, now 75 and in good health, stepped down as Premier last November amid increasing sexual scandals. He has not commented on the exhibit, which was displayed in a shrine at the Palazzo Ferrajoli, just across the street from Palazzo Chigi, the Italian prime minister's residence, through the 30th of May.