Diana, the nude statue, returning without cover


MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's most controversial statue -- a voluptuous nude rendition of Diana the Huntress -- is back in the limelight, this time without a bra and miniskirt.

The 9-foot-tall bronze statue is being rescued from an obscure location off a multi-lane highway in the city. Next month her new location will be in the middle of the city's most famous thoroughfare, the Paseo de la Reforma.

Like many beautiful women, Diana was not readily accepted when she was first installed at the entrance to Chapultepec park in 1942.

Her curvaceous form provoked an immediate outcry from the Legion of Decency who feared for the morals of gawking teen-age boys.

The 1-ton bronze Diana was also said to have offended the wife of former President Manuel Avila Camacho.

The furor subsided when the sculptor, the late Juan F. Olaguibel Rosenzweig, agreed to dress his most famous work in a metal bra and miniskirt.

But the prudish clothing was removed in 1967, and a city press release last month stressed that Diana would be presented in the nude at her new location.

The sculpture, "Archer of the North Star," depicts the goddess after she has unleashed an arrow from her bow.

It is said that many men feel the arrow struck them in the heart and that for generations she has drawn the longing looks from smitten Mexico City drivers passing by her present location.

Mr. Olaguibel, Diana's creator, always resented the prudish attacks against his work. The artist did not consider her pornographic. He argued that the statue represented the Mexican ideal of feminine beauty.

Perhaps so. But some of the statue's most determined admirers were not content with mere bronze. They wanted to find the model who would have posed for the statue, says Alejandro Garcia Lara, the city's public works director.

The mystery model, who was about 18 years old at the time Diana was created, would now be in her late 60s, Mr. Garcia theorizes. "Some say the sculptor may have used as many as 18 models," he says.

Those rumored to have posed for the sculpture included the artist's secretary; the lover of former President Miguel Aleman; another man's wife; a former actress who is now a senator; the cousin of the late movie star Delores del Rio; and another actress, Ana Luisa Peluffo.

"For a while, there was certain cachet to being rumored as the model for the Huntress," says Mr. Garcia. "Beautiful women would neither confirm nor deny their role but sort of hint that they were the mystery lady."

It was Miss Peluffo and actress Luz Maria Aguilar who reportedly persuaded Mexico City Mayor Manuel Camacho Solis to rescue Diana from obscurity.

"People kept asking us what happened to the Huntress. It was as if Mexico's most famous statue had dropped out of sight," said Mr. Garcia.

"We took a poll, and the prevailing opinion was that she should be moved to the Reforma."

Even so, the beautiful huntress is never far from controversy.

The $727,000 cost of the move, including the renovation of her fountain and a trip to a restorative "beauty parlor," has roused the anger of some artists.

"This is all being done in the name of 'culture,' " said Feliciano Bejar, the noted painter and sculptor. "It is ironic that we can spend huge sums moving Diana around town when our money-starved school system cannot produce students who can appreciate art.

"How can we be spending this money while our hospitals lack medicines? This is a scandal."

Another controversy arises over whether the statue to be placed in the Reforma is the genuine article. Mr. Garcia denies a rumor that the original was spirited off to Hidalgo state by a former Mexico City mayor who was enamored of her.

"Actually, there were two Dianas struck from the same mold," said Mr. Garcia. "The former mayor bought one and we have the other."

Diana's new location will be in a traffic circle at Rio Mississippi and Reforma, where rush-hour motorists are routinely stalled for as long as 15 minutes in choking smog.

"With the bronze Huntress glistening in the smog, I think my stress will stay the same but for a different reason," said taxi driver Herminio Cevero Sanchez.

"Instead of being angry in a traffic jam, I will be preoccupied with the sexy Diana."

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