Of course not everybody likes it. It’s disgusting, pornographic, offensive and historically inaccurate.
Love it or hate it, you can’t ignore the public art of sculptor Peter Lenk, when it’s given pride of place by the harbours of Konstanz, Meersburg and Uberlingen.
His nine metre high Imperia was erected in 1993 (‘clandestinely’, according to Wikipedia – surely someone must have noticed something going on). Now the lady revolves slowly on her pedestal in Lake Constance, attracting every visitor with a camera.
Of course it tells a tall tale, though not a true one.
It’s based on a short satirical story by Balzac, in which the prostitute seduces both the Emperor Sigismund and Pope Martin V during the Council of Constance, 1414-1418, called to settle the awkward problem of having three competing popes.
The real Imperia was born in 1485 and never visited Konstanz.
There were inevitably calls for the sculpture’s removal, and it’s easy to see why. Statues normally idealise historical figures, perched nobly on their pedestals in city squares, with only the pigeons to bring them down a peg or two.
We’ve become so used to classical sculpture with its perfect bodies and rippling muscles that the subjects don’t look naked. There are few calls for Michelangelo’s David to pull on some knickers.
Lenk’s figures may be grotesque, his shots cheap and his humour undergraduate, but his work does spark interest in the subjects’ back stories.
You wouldn’t say Lenk’s work is beautiful; perhaps it’s little more than a series of cheeky cartoons. But many of us are grateful to the Lake Constance towns that have placed it, larger than life, in public spaces where everybody can get a smile from it, and a few snaps.