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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tsereteli Tries for a Statue Fit for a Princess

Controversial sculptor Zurab Tsereteli, whose towering — and some say downright ugly — works have riled many Muscovites, has turned to a new subject: Princess Diana.

Tsereteli has sculptured a two-meter statue of the Princess of Wales, who would have turned 40 this week, out of bronze and is offering to send it as a gift to Britain.

Famous for enormous sculptures like the 94-meter-high Peter the Great statue on the Moscow River, Tsereteli has now gone for a lighter touch with the princess, who died in a car crash in 1997.

"She made an impression, and I try to show it here," Tsereteli, who met the princess twice, said Thursday.

The statue looks lost in Tsereteli's backyard studio on Bolshaya Gruzinskaya, which is filled with giant clowns on bikes, crocodiles and a menagerie of other statues.

Tsereteli has cast the princess wearing a dress with frills and ruffles at the front, a bouffant haircut, circa 1985, and holding a large bouquet of flowers. While Diana waits for a new home, either in Britain of a Moscow museum, she is standing on a plinth between two statues of Mother Teresa.

On the plinth, Diana's name is carved on a plaque shaped like an old parchment with a crack running almost all the way through it.

"It doesn't go to the end," said Tsereteli, pointing to the name. "Life continues."

Tsereteli said he sculpted the statue from photographs and his memories of the two times he met the princess in person, once in 1989 when he donated a mammoth statue called "Let Us Break Down the Wall of Misunderstanding" to Britain during a visit by then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. He saw Diana again a few years later in Paris.

But the statue's face looks more like the goddess Diana than anything recognizably like the princess, suggesting that her countenance has slipped from the sculptor's memory.

Tsereteli could be the first person to make a statue of Diana. After the outpouring of grief that poured across England after her death, a memorial committee was set up under Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown to find a way of remembering her legacy.

The committee, however, decided against building statues after family members said doing so would be inappropriate, a committee spokesman said by telephone from London.

He said the committee was not interested in obtaining Tsereteli's statue. "There may be others who are interested," he added.

Last week, the committee announced that a fountain — without any likenesses of the princess — would be built in Hyde Park in memory of Diana.

At his studio, Tsereteli doesn't agree with the decision.

"How many fountains are there in the world?" he said by way of explanation. "With an image, people don't forget. … Fountains are only pretty, but to make sure no one ever forgets, you need an image."

The 67-year-old artist said he would consider donating the Diana statue to the Royal National Rose Society, which is planning to build a rose garden just outside London dedicated to the princess.

"It was a good decision to build the gardens," said Tsereteli. "We need to put it [the statue] in a garden of flowers — that would be great."

The Royal National Rose Society knew nothing about the statue but expressed interest Thursday.

"I think we'd be extremely interested in hearing about it," said the society's director general, Ken Grapes, by telephone from London upon learning about the offer.

"I can't say, as I haven't seen it," Grapes added. "It would be nice though, wouldn't it?"

Under the patronage of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, Tsereteli has populated Moscow with his distinct brand of monumental architecture, making himself the bete noire of many Moscow intellectuals in the process.

His statue of Peter the Great atop a ship on the Moscow River has gotten a tongue-lashing in the press, while a 500-ton monument to Christopher Columbus he built nine years ago was rejected by Miami as a monstrosity and has yet to find a home.

And even though the one-ton statue of Diana may be a midget in comparison, Tsereteli is ready to change that if necessary.

"It can be made bigger," he promised.