Work has begun to repair the famous Elephant and Obelisk statue in Rome, which was damaged in an apparent vandalism attack earlier this week.
Restoration experts are working to reattach part of the ivory, but the city’s mayor has warned the damage will be irreversible.
The famous sculpture by Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini is located in Piazza della Minerva, just round the corner from the Pantheon.
The statue, an elephant carrying an obelisk on its back, was placed by Pope Alexander VII.
It has stood in the square in front of the Basilica of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva since 1667.
The polices in Rome are investigating the apparent vandalism, which occurred overnight on Sunday.
The Roman cultural authorities said vandals broke off the left tusks of the elephant, which authorities recovered at the foot of the statue.
Police said they were checking CCTV footage in the area to identify any suspects.
Following the incident, the newly elected mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi said: ‘The image of Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s elephant being smeared hurts all Romans. For us, protecting the city’s heritage is very important.
‘We owe it to future generations to look after these monuments. They don’t belong to us. We are just their guardians.
‘It is severe that local and national politicians have damaged and neglected one of our most important monuments.
‘Local police have recovered the tusk, but the damage will be irreversible, like that to the Barcaccia and many more.’
The Fontana della Barcaccia fountain was damaged last February by a group of Dutch football hooligans in Rome for a match.
The group, believed to have been under the influence of alcohol and drugs, climbed onto the fountain and threw bottles and trash into it before clashing with police.