Artist who created ‘blasphemous’ Jesus oral sex painting stabbed in neck

A silhouette of the image of the crucified Christ against a sunset.
A silhouette of the image of the crucified Christ against a sunset. | Wikimedia Commons/AntanO

An artist whose painting depicts the lifeless figure of Jesus receiving oral sex was attacked inside a church hosting the controversial exhibition in Carpi, Italy. The assailant, armed with a spray can and a knife, injured the artist in the neck and targeted his painting.

The artist, Andrea Saltini, was injured during last Thursday's confrontation at the church of Sant'Ignazio, which has been hosting the "Gratia plena" exhibition for weeks. 

Saltini survived with minor injuries, the Gazzetta Di Modena newspaper reported

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The vandalized painting, deemed blasphemous, shows a body meant to be Jesus, lying unconscious with a male figure bending over with his face hovering over the crotch area. The person crouched over Jesus is said to depict St. Longinus, the Roman soldier who pierced his side with a lance during the crucifixion. 

The painting has led to widespread outrage and calls for the exhibition's closure, The Art Newspaper notes. The exhibition opened on March 2 and features about 20 of Saltini's works, each showing a contemporary twist on a religious theme. 

Saltini, 49, was in a difficult situation when he tried to stop the vandal from defacing his artwork, "INRI - San Longino," which sparked outrage among many Catholics.

The attacker managed to flee the scene. Saltini was promptly taken to a hospital in Carpi, where he was treated with four stitches before being discharged, according to the Italian newspaper Il Resto del Carlino.

The exhibition is scheduled to run until June 2. A pro-life organization's petition calling for an end to the "blasphemous" exhibition has received over 30,000 signatures, The Art Newspaper reported.

Archbishop Erio Castellucci has faced calls to close the exhibition. Authorities dismissed a legal complaint filed against him for not closing the exhibition.

Saltini's lawyer, Giuseppe Chierici, said in a statement with The Art Newspaper that his client "hopes an open and free discussion respecting everyone's sensitivities and opinions can begin as soon as possible."

"[Saltini] asks the entire community of Carpi to reflect on the limits of dissent, the right to criticism, the right to freedom of thought," Chierici said. 

The Diocese of Carpi released a statement condemning the attack, expressed solidarity with Saltini and praised the police's swift response. The diocese expressed its commitment to aiding the investigation to apprehend the assailant who discarded his mask and knife before he fled the scene.  

Mayor Alberto Bellelli condemned the violence on social media, urging the community to maintain calm and reject divisive rhetoric.

"It is precisely in moments like this that we must reaffirm our values ​​as a community, such as solidarity, mutual respect and dialogue," he wrote, according to Gazzetta Di Modena.

Daniela Depietri, the secretary of the Democratic Party of Carpi, called the incident a breach of democratic and expressive freedoms, urging a united stand against fanaticism and violence.

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