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Carla's £67,000 statue ruffles a few feathers in Paris

A proposed bronze statue portraying Carla Bruni-Sarkozy as a poor Italian feather-plucker is ruffling political feathers in the Paris suburbs. The centre-right mayor of Nogent-sur-Marne won support for a two-metre-high, €82,000 (£67,000) statue to commemorate the "plumassières" – women of Italian origin who worked in the feather industry in the town from the 19th century. He failed to inform his council that he had asked President Sarkozy's Italian-born supermodel and pop-singer wife, to pose for the statue.

Opposition members of the council accused him yesterday of staging a "political stunt" before this spring's presidential election.

"This is grotesque idea," said the Socialist councillor, William Geib. "It is an insult to poor Italian feather-pluckers to give them the face of this super-rich woman.

"I've nothing against Carla Bruni-Sarkozy but she hardly represents working women."

The mayor, Jacques Martin, a member of President Sarkozy's centre-right party, said: "I approached Carla Bruni-Sarkozy because she is the first lady of France and the most Italian of French women. I suggested that we should use her face for this statue and she agreed." He added the cost of the statue, by Elisabeth Cibot, had been paid by property developers.