Curvy mermaid statue in Italy makes a viral splash as residents debate if it’s ‘vulgar’ or ‘beautiful’


A voluptuous mermaid statue in southern Italy is making people do a double take as city officials have finished the piece’s installation near a children’s play area.

The statue, which was sculpted by the IISS Luigi Rosso art high school and is reportedly meant to honor Rita Levi-Montalcini, a late Italian senator and Nobel laureate, has been erected in the Puglia region, according to The Monopoli Times, a local news outlet that covers events in southern Italy.

Students of the IISS Luigi Rosso art high school in Monopoli crafted the cheeky and buxom mermaid statue and the artwork has been erected at the Piazza Rita Levi Montalcini – a new town square named after the famous senator in Bari, a port city and province within the Monopoli township of Puglia.

Photos snapped by The Monopoli Times before the square’s inauguration, which were uploaded to Twitter and Facebook, show the cross-armed mermaid statue sitting on a stone pillar with a plaque referencing the Comune di Monopoli – City of Monopoly in English.

The statue appears to be a short distance away from a newly constructed children’s park, which is equipped with a swing set, a jungle gym, a slide and a circular balance board. 

Since late April, residents of the area and the larger Italian population have been debating whether the curvy mermaid statue is an appropriate art display given its proximity to the square’s park.

Fox News Digital reached out to the IISS Luigi Russo art school for comment.

The high school uploaded an article excerpt on Monday, May 1, that states the mermaid statue was temporarily covered with a tarp to hide its “provocative” form, but the statue was unveiled again as hundreds of tourists have traveled to the city of Bari to take pictures with the stone siren.

“This statue is magnificent, people are becoming more and more intolerant,” one Twitter user wrote under The Monopoli Times post.

“Beautiful.. front and back.. don’t censor the beautiful (real) woman’s physique!” another Twitter user commented.

Facebook users were more divided on the story with hundreds of commenters split on whether the mermaid statue should overlook a children’s park and whether the tribute truly honors Levi-Montalcini.

Levi-Montalcini, who’s most known for her neurobiology work in nerve growth factor research, died in Rome on Dec. 30, 2012, at the age of 103.

“I didn’t understand the connection between Nobel prize and artwork. Although she is beautiful, I think she is not suitable to represent professor Montalcini,” one Facebook user wrote. “Seeing her, in fact, a famous phrase of hers came to my mind which she quoted: ‘Women who changed the world never needed to prove anything, but their intelligence.’”

Another commenter questioned who created the mermaid statue and labeled the artwork as “vulgar” and not an accurate representation of mermaids or the late senator.

“Not honoring the Nobel Prize winner Montalcini,” the Facebook user continued. “This does not take away from not recognizing the skill of the high school kids in having it done, but it is not in the right context, in my humble opinion!”

Italian Facebook users debated whether the mermaid statue’s form is a negative or positive portrayal of women.

“Lobotomizing the image of girls and children through the sexualized and objectified female body,” one commenter wrote.

Others argued that the statue couldn’t harm women because mermaids aren’t real.

“What do you do with the kids when you go to the beach? Are you blessed??” a Facebook user questioned. “If you have such perverted judgments towards a statue…. I don’t dare to imagine in other situations what kind of movies you make. Luckily the kids are not mischievous…. if they grow up in a healthy setting.”

Several Facebook users who have stated that they find the mermaid statue to be beautiful, but think it may not be installed in a place that makes sense, have suggested that city officials could move it to a cliffside overlooking the Adriatic Sea.


Some supporters of the statue asked critics if they also object to seminude and fully nude statues that are displayed in art museums and other public spaces throughout Italy, or if they cover children’s eyes when visiting a beach.

Outside of Italy, social media users have mostly made jokes about the controversy surrounding the mermaid statue.

“This statue might be too bootylicious for ya, babe,” said a tweet posted from the account, Euronews Culture.

“I’m all for the arts but this mermaid statue is a whole other level lol,” another Twitter user commented.

“This mermaid is built like a Pixar mom, what’s going on over there?” one Twitter user questioned. 

The mermaid statue and other works of art from the IISS Luigi Russo are reportedly being installed throughout the new town square as the area undergoes an external redevelopment project that enhances recreation and culture, according to The Monopoli Times.

Fox News Digital reached out to the Comune di Monopoli and the Puglia Tourism Board for comment.

The debate around Italy’s mermaid statue comes weeks after a Florida school principal was forced to resign after parents complained that their children had been shown a photo of Michaelangelo’s famous “David” statue during a Renaissance art lesson.

The more than 500-year-old marble statue is on display at the Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy.

Fox News Digital’s Peter Aitken contributed to this report.