A controversial sculpture of Pope Benedict XVI, depicting him in nothing but a blond bob wig, a stole, panties and thigh-high stockings has been pulled from a gay exhibition in Milan.

Curator Eugenio Viola told Associated Press: “It was made clear to us that it would be better to remove the piece.”

The Catholic Anti-Defamation League protested about the appearance of the sculpture, claiming it is a defamation of the head of state of the Vatican.

They threatened to press charges.

“It is a vulgar offence against Christ’s Vicar and the feelings of the Roman Catholics,” a spokesman said.

Milan culture counsellor Vittorio Sgarbi told Ansa IT:

“This exhibition represents gay Pride. It gives space to artists who show homosexual aesthetics in a flashy, proud way with a few irrepressible provocations.”

He said of the Papal sculpture:

“I’ll keep it with me so that I can give the Pope back the decorum he deserves.”

The removal of the provocative sculpture led Mr Sgarbi to cancel the ban imposed on under-18s.

A second controversial piece featuring a photo of Romano Prodi’s spokesperson speaking to a transgender prostitute was also pulled.

The opening was postponed for three days to remove the sculptures and replace catalogues.

The Pope piece, entitled “Miss Kitty,” was created by Paolo Schmidlin.

The exhibition starts with late nineteenth century pieces up to the present day and features works by 150 different artists including Andy Warhol, Gilbert and George, American photographer Bruce Weber and Britain’s David Hockney.

The exhibition is staged in Milan’s Palazzo della Ragione until November 11th.