Picture of the Day: Power of the Palio

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The Independent Online

Tuscany's famous horse race, the Palio, has for centuries been riven by grudges among the competitors, but this year even the prize on offer was controversial.

Winners of the historic bareback race around the Piazza del Campo in the ancient city of Siena, Italy, are traditionally presented with the "Palio", a silk banner depicting the Madonna and Child.

This year, however, the painting also incorporated Islamic and Jewish symbols, including a crescent moon and a star of David.

It was painted by Ali Hassoun, a Lebanese-born artist, who said the symbolism expressed the need for finding common ground among people of different faiths and cultures. But while some Italians said the banner was beautiful, others denounced it as blasphemous.

Seventeen Siena neighbourhoods contest the Palio on 2 July and again on 16 August each year. Ten horses make a mad dash around the square as they have done since 1656. Yesterday's race was won by jockey Silvano Mulas, pictured left riding Fedora Saura, a horse from the parish of Salva.

Picture by Carlo Ferraro/EPA