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On show: art that cast Ceausescu as demigod

One painting shows a medieval ruler making a toast to the former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Another depicts the Communist-era leader as a handsome youth - even though he was over 60 at the time.

Art from the Ceausescu years has gone on display in an exhibition designed to shed light on one of the most sombre periods in Romania's history.

Sycophantic and kitsch, many of the 160 paintings depict Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, as demigods. The show will stir debate as most of the creators of the socialist realist art that fed the dictator's personality cult are still prominent.

However, Florin Tudor, the curator of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest, where the show opened, insists: "This is not a witch-hunt. It is a study of a dark period in Romania's history which we have to talk about," he said, adding that all the artists whose work was being shown had been invited to the opening.

Some of the artists whose works are on show include the former culture minister Viorel Marginean, the president of the Union of Plastic Arts, Zamfir Dumitrescu, and the well-known artists Sabin Balasa and Corneliu Baba.

"I have heard that some of the artists are upset we have included them," said Mr Tudor.