Berlusconi and his new golden girl are laid bare

Premier and his starlet minister learn the dark art of satire, reports Peter Popham

Silvio Berlusconi's light-hearted dalliance with a television starlet whom he subsequently appointed to his cabinet has been made the subject of an oil painting in which both are shown in the nude.

Two years ago the Italian Prime Minister told the starlet, Mara Carfagna – and millions watching on TV – that he would marry her like a shot if he wasn't married already. His wife, Veronica Lario, demanded and obtained a public apology but last year Mr Berlusconi made her Minister of Equal Opportunities in his new government. Now Italy's most celebrated virtual couple find themselves together on a gallery wall near Savona in Liguria. Mr Berlusconi is depicted with a pair of giant wings extending protectively around his naked minister. Both wear sober, almost prudish expressions. Mr Berlusconi might be about to whisper sweet political nothings in his protegée's ear; Ms Carfagna, on the other hand, has her eyes directed towards the premier's (discreetly covered) genitals.

But Ms Lario arguably has the last laugh, starring stark naked in a canvas of her own, angelic wings spread wide, with a pair of enormous, very soft-looking breasts and a ghostly smile on her chalk white face.

The artist, Filippo Panseca, made his name in the 1980s as the designer of colossal, pharaonic stage sets for the conventions of the Socialist Party under Mr Berlusconi's then patron, Bettino Craxi. Speaking to his local newspaper, Secolo XIX, Panseca said he wanted to "pay homage to the Prime Minister" through the pictures. He said he copied the likeness of Mr Berlusconi from an image on the internet, while he borrowed Ms Carfagna's body from a 19th century artist. He added that if Mr Berlusconi bought the paintings he would donate the money to the earthquake victims of Abruzzo.

Mr Berlusconi has yet to comment. But he seems unlikely to buy the pictures: last year, he censored a bare nipple in a copy of a renaissance painting hung in the government press room.

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