A beloved landmark by Italian artist Angiolo Vannetti, “Gazelle and the Beauty,” that stood in a fountain in the center of Tripoli, Libya for more than 80 years was removed sometime during the evening of November 3 and the early hours of November 4. Though the cause of its disappearance is unknown, many suspect Islamist militants removed the bronze statue of a nude woman petting a gazelle, BBC News reports. The statue was struck by a rocket in August. Reports indicate that the sculpture was crudely removed with the use of a mechanical digger without any warning.
“We were very sentimental about the statue,” Amal Shibani, a resident of Tripoli, told the Libya Herald. “They have deprived us of one of the most beautiful landmarks of our city.”
In an official statement, Tripoli’s municipal government deplored the piece’s removal:
We call on our Libyan brothers to protect Libya’s heritage and antiquities. We have contacted the authorities and they have opened an investigation into the matter and we promise the residents of Tripoli that we will get the criminals.
The statue was inaugurated in 1932, when Libya was under Italian rule. “She is not intended to be seen as an object of sexual desire, but rather an as allegorical figure,” David Rifkind, an assistant professor at Florida International University, told Bloomberg. The work’s original title was “Sorgente di Vita” (or “Source of Life”), and, in the artist’s own words, symbolized that “the country had the sweetest to offer: the gazelle and the woman.”
The public art piece became a target of Islamist militias in February 2012. At the time, a group of intellectuals and journalists gathered at the statue to protest threats made against it, as a Libyan television report cited by CNN shows.
The statue was often referred to as the “mermaid fountain,” a reference to Tripoli’s allegorical nickname, “The Mermaid.”
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