Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi likes the painting to the right, a Giambattista Tiepolo work called "La Verità Svelata dal Tempo." (The Truth Unveiled by Time.) He likes it so much that he gives news conferences with a reproduction of the painting as backdrop. Truth, the young woman, is front and center. She's also showing some nip. So Berlusconi's office painted on some modesty:

"It's a wonderful concept, that the passing of time will show who is right and who is wrong," said Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums. "It's the perfect choice of a message for a government."

It was retouched in recent weeks to cover an exposed breast, which "might have upset the sensitivity of some viewers," Paolo Bonaiuti, the prime minister's spokesman, told the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera over the weekend.

"That breast, that little nipple, ends up right in the shots that TVs make during press conferences," Bonaiuti said.

Bonaiuti said the touchup had been the "initiative of those who look after the prime minister's image."

Vittorio Sgarbi, a former culture minister in Mr Berlusconi's first government and the country's best known art critic, reacted forcefully to the news. "Mad. They are all mad," he said.

Don't worry, Prime Minister; John Ashcroft has your back. Personally, I think the allegory works better now.