The Italian Ministry of Tourism has released a promotional video that has generated countless reactions in just over a week. The €9 million ad campaign was not only ridiculed by social media users, but also heavily criticized by art historians.
The almost 3-minute long video, which has since been deleted from the official YouTube account, begins with some photos of what Italy has to offer. Titled “Open to meraviglia,” the ad then features a modernized version of Botticelli’s Venus as a “virtual influencer,” posting on her Instagram page about her adventures around the country.
As if to add insult to injury, in addition to what art historians call a “grotesque” and “obscene” depiction of the Roman goddess of love, at about the 27 second mark, the video shows a group of people sitting around a table enjoying wine in what is supposed to be a typical Italian setting. However, keen observers have noticed that not only is the bottle of wine on the table from a Slovenian vineyard, but the shot itself was shot in the village of Gorjansko, in the Slovenian municipality of Komen, and comes from Artgrid, a foreign stock image and video website.
After Massimiliano Milich of production company Terroir Films first noticed the mishap, Twitter users were quick to poke fun at him. One wrote “Wonderful! What will be the next step? Promote Prosecco with a bottle of champagne?’, while another said: ‘Well, Venus of Sant’Anche convinced me. This year I will go on holiday to Slovenia”, taking a shot at Tourism Minister Daniela Santanche, who is the mastermind behind the campaign.
“I deliberately chose Botticelli’s Venus, an icon known all over the world and a symbol of our Italian spirit,” Santanche said, adding that the campaign aims to promote Italy “in an unprecedented way that has never been done before.” This was another point of contention, as the revamped Venus Instagram page advertised already well-known attractions such as the Roman Coliseum, the Pantheon or the Trevi Fountain.
Art historian Tommaso Montanari called the campaign “grotesque” and an “obscene” waste of money, while Livia Garomersini, also an art historian, asked “where is the art, where is the promotion in this threadbare mess of clichés?”, commenting that the ad ” trivializes our heritage in the most vulgar way’. “We fight against commercial exploitation that ridicules our artistic jewels, such as aprons showing the statue of David’s private parts or grotesque reproductions of works of art in silly poses,” said Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence, where Botticelli The Birth of Venus is located in the Uffizi Gallery.
Culture Ministry Undersecretary Vittorio Sgarbi also noted in La Repubblica newspaper that “since Venus is naked, it would be better to see her that way without the need to dress her up like that,” describing the campaign as ” Ferragni’s stuff ” (a reference to famous social media influencer Chiara Ferragni). He also objected to the combination of Italian and English in the title: “I don’t want to contradict my colleagues too much. But “Open to meraviglia? what is it about What language is it?’
“I don’t understand the criticism, pizza is famous all over the world, it’s part of the Mediterranean diet and our cuisine, which is appreciated, imitated and copied all over the world,” he called the critics “slightly snobbish and radical chic people who eat caviar and salmon”. She also responded to comments about the high budget, saying the €9 million included promotion in airports and cities around the world.