Melania Trump sculpture set alight in Slovenia after a year of controversy

A sculpture, created by American artist Brad Downey, depicting Melania Trump is seen in her hometown in Sevnica, Slovenia. July 5, 2019.

A wooden sculpture of the US first lady Melania Trump that stood near her hometown of Sevnica, Slovenia has been set on fire, according to the artist who commissioned it.

Brad Downey, an American artist based in Berlin, told Reuters news agency that the artwork was torched on July 4 as people in the US celebrated Independence Day. He said the had the sculpture, which was blackened and disfigured, removed when he was informed about its state by police on July 5.

"I want to know why they did it,” Downey told Reuters, adding that he had filed a police report and that, if identified, he would like to interview the perpetrators to include in a film he is making for an exhibition that is due to open in Slovenia this September.

“The investigation, in this case, has not been completed yet so we cannot reveal details due to the interest of further procedures,” Alenka Drenik, a police spokeswoman, told Reuters.

The lifesize portrait caused a stir when it was first revealed last summer, dividing opinion, with some saying it bore no resemblance to Trump.

Carved by local folk artist Ales Zupevc, the wooden statue accompanied an exhibition in the capital Ljubljana exploring Melania's roots in the eastern European country.

The rustic figure was cut from a living linden tree and looked reminiscent of naive art typical for the region.

While it may not have been immediately obvious that the statue was a homage to the first lady, it did bear the pale blue coat that Melania wore at Donald Trump's inauguration.

Downey said at the time he wanted to "have a dialogue with my country's political situation" and highlight Melania Trump's status as an immigrant married to a president sworn to reduce immigration.

This is not the first time a statue of one of the Trump family has been set alight in Slovenia — a wooden statue of US President Donald Trump was burned to the ground in January.

The nearly eight-metre-high construction, erected last year in a village in the northeast of the country, showed Trump with his trademark hairstyle, blue suit, white shirt and a long red tie. His right arm fist clenched was raised high like that of New York's Statue of Liberty.

Although the construction quickly became a tourist attraction when it was put up last year, some local villagers were unhappy with its appearance, pledging to torch it by Halloween. It had to be moved to another village in the area.

The US first lady, born Melanija Knavs, changed her name to Melania Knauss when she started modelling. She settled in New York in 1996 and met Trump two years later.

Miro Majcen