A Romanian sculptor has been charged with fraud after a much-mocked sculpture of the Emperor Trajan -- and ten others -- turned out to be made of brass and not bronze as claimed, police said Monday.
Ioan Bolborea, 65, is accused of selling the statues to the Bucharest municipality and thereby defrauding it of 3.7 million euros ($4.5 million), a police spokesman told AFP.
One of the statues, a depiction of a nude Roman emperor Trajan holding a she-wolf in his arms, was widely mocked after its installation in front of Bucharest's National History Museum in 2012.
The artwork, based on a model by the sculptor Vasile Gorduz (1931-2008), portrays the genesis of the Romanian people from the merging of the Romans and the Dacians, with the wolf as a symbolic animal.
The strange posture and the nudity of the male character, as well as the appearance of the wolf with a scarf recalling the Dacians' flag around its neck, prompted a wave of mockery at the time.
Online critics quipped it was a monument to Bucharest's stray dogs, and even the museum's curator admitting it was of "doubtful artistic quality".
Suspicions about the material used were raised in 2017 when the statue was vandalised and the tail of the she-wolf was broken.
When trying to fix it, experts noticed that the statue was made of brass, not bronze.
Contacted by AFP, Bolborea refused to comment on the charges.
The investigation started following several complains from the Bucharest municipality regarding the quality of Bolborea's work, which at the time he rejected as "nonsense".