No loincloth, fig leaf or other covering will be added to the bronze statue of a nude boy -- a gift from La Crosse's sister city of Epinal, France -- after city officials decided Wednesday it was art and should not be altered.

"I love Michelangelo's David, and I have no problem with nudity in statuary," said La Crosse City Council member George Italiano. "I do not feel this is pornographic or explicit. Epinal gave us the statue without it being covered."

The statue Le Pinau, of a boy pulling a thorn from his foot, is a replica of one in the reception room of Epinal's city hall. It is symbolic of the city, whose name stems from the French word for thorn.

But when viewed from below the column on which it will be placed, the statue's naked groin is visible.

That was enough to prompt the city's Contributions Committee to amend its resolution accepting the statue.

Elmer Petersen, chairman of the Downtown La Crosse Sculpture Project Committee and a sculptor, said Wednesday it was his understanding he needed to "discreetly cover the private parts so it is presentable."

He said he had an idea to create a small bronze cloth that could be draped over the groin without destroying the statue's look. "Not like a fig leaf, which would be noticed and laughable," he said.

The council approved the resolution as offered several months ago, but some members who saw the statue Wednesday said they weren't aware of the amendment calling for the cover.

"I would not want to change something that has been around forever," council member Dorothy Lenard said of the statue, originally done by a Greek sculptor. The one in Epinal was done by the sculptor Laurent in 1825. "If you've traveled, there is nudity in art, and people get past it."

To change the statue would be an insult to the citizens of Epinal, said council member Audrey Kader.

Petersen said he understood the rationale to have the groin covered because of so much talk today of child pornography, but he didn't think the statue should be changed.

"In France, I don't think they expected we would want to do that," he said.

Le Pinau will be dedicated in a ceremony attended by an Epinal delegation Monday at a water fountain on Front Street, where the statue might be permanently placed.

"It will be (displayed) just like it is in France, so I do not know if that starts or ends the controversy," Mayor Mark Johnsrud said.

The city will send a replica of its Lacrosse Players statue to Epinal in exchange.

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