The 50-year-old Austrian man was leaning back on the plaster cast model when he accidentally damaged the piece of art, Italian authorities say.
The statue by Antonio Canova is known as Venus Victrix (Venus Victorius) and it depicts Napoleon Bonaparte‘s sister, Pauline, reclining semi-nude on a couch. It was created in 1804 for an identical marble statue, which now sits at the Galleria Borghese in Rome.
Surveillance footage from the Gypsotheca Museum in Possagno, Italy, shows the moment the man’s goofy photo op went awry on July 31.
The man, whose face is blurred, can be seen reclining against the statue, mimicking the plaster figure’s pose while a woman takes his photo from several feet away. The man freezes for the photo, then appears to push off against the statue’s feet to help himself stand up.
That’s when he seemingly snapped three toes off the statue’s right foot.
Museum officials say the tourist left in a hurry without reporting the incident to staff. Security guards noticed the damage shortly after it occurred.
Authorities released photos and video of the incident earlier this week in hopes of identifying the clumsy tourist.
CNN reports that police initially contacted the man’s wife, who left her contact information with the museum under its coronavirus contact-tracing rules. Police said the woman burst into tears when they spoke to her about the incident.
The man must have been kicking himself for the mistake, because he turned himself in on Aug. 4. He also wrote a letter of apology, the museum said.
“It was irresponsible behaviour on my part,” the tourist wrote, according to a Facebook post by the museum. “I sat on the statue, without realizing the damage that I obviously caused.”
Vittorio Sgarbi, an Italian author and president of the Antonio Canova Foundation, urged police to punish the culprit after the incident occurred.
He later acknowledged the letter of apology, saying he appreciates the man’s “civic sense” and “words of embarrassment.”
Sgarbi also shared a photo of a couch on his social media channels, where he suggested that it be placed beside the statue so that tourists would have a place to “rest” without damaging the artwork.
A court in Treviso, northern Italy, is now considering whether to press charges over the incident.