An Italian landlord is accusing the popular German “influencer” Janis Danner of destroying an antique statue worth €200,000. Danner’s lawyer said the allegation was false and promised legal action against the Italian.
Danner was on holiday at the historic Villa Alceo in the north of Italy. At some point, he and a friend climbed into a fountain there to get some pictures of them hugging what is said to be the 19th Century statue Domina by sculptor Enrico Butti.
During that photo op, one of the friends pushed Danner with a stick, causing him to fall over while gripping the statue as he fell and breaking it.
The entire incident was caught on surveillance camera.
Bruno Golferini, the owner of the villa where Danner and his friends were staying, has accused him and other German guests of vandalism.
“For us, this is a tragedy. Nothing like this has ever happened. These young people we welcomed are vandals, with no respect for art and culture,” he told news outlet La Stampa. “[Danner] told me that the sculpture was made of sand and that if I wanted, he would give me €200,” Golferini said.
Brussels Signal contacted Danner’s lawyer André Miegel who said: “It is evident that the owner of the villa has made false factual allegations. These will now be the subject of legal action against him.” He also cited several negative customer reviews of the villa on several platforms.
He provided screenshots of an alleged conversation between Golferini and representatives of Danner, with the landlord saying he had received €300 with a proposal of €1,000 but was demanding €15,000.
In the conversation, Golferini seemed to suggest he would be open to lower compensation if it was provided immediately and if that happened he would drop charges. Danner representatives referred to “blackmail” where the press was being used as leverage.
Danner said that there never was any question of not paying nor of avoiding responsibility. He said Golferini very quickly demanded money and threatened him and others “to file charges, prison sentences and Interpol, which he would only refrain from doing if we paid the sum he demanded”.
“Mr. Bruno Golferini’s demeanor was aggressive and threatening from the beginning, which seems to be a general problem in dealing with guests,” Danner said, claiming Golferini used an excavator to block the guests from driving away.
They later were denied access to the villa and their private goods, Danner said via his lawyer. This caused them to contact the police again.
“Mr. B. Golferini filed a complaint against us. When we, for our part, wanted to file a complaint for the criminal offences of deprivation of liberty, fraud, coercion, and extortion, the Italian police did not accept it and claimed that it had to be filed in Germany, which we still do not understand.”
Danner and his party reject having offered just €200. “At no time was there any reason for Mr. B. Golferini to doubt that the damage would be settled via the official route of a liability insurance and an expert opinion.”
Instead, he added: “One was only not ready to pay an arbitrary sum of €15,000 in cash,” because of doubts over the value of the statue as it stood “unprotected from the weather and unfortified in the open air”.
“It seems that the sum was freely invented in favour of the dramatic, self-promoting press reports of Mr. B. Golferini.”
Danner said he contacted an art expert specialised in antique sculptures, who pointed out that the statue was already badly damaged by the weather and there was no historical or stylistic reason to attribute it to the sculptor Butti – and even if it was, the price would be less than €10,000, possibly as low as €1,500.
“We are appalled by the false allegations and the representations of our group on the part of Mr. Bruno Golferini and reserve the right to take further legal action”, Danner told Brussels Signal.
Golferini, for his part, contacted several media outlets saying: “Seeing this scene reminded me of the historical episodes of looting ancient cities when barbarians destroyed everything and threw statues of gods on the ground as a sign of contempt.
“This act of vandalism left me with the same feeling, also because I grew up in Villa Alceo and this statue has always had great emotional value. For me, it was the symbol of the house, its protector in a way.
“Sadly, there are these ignorant people who do these kinds of things,” Golferini added.
“I should have intervened earlier with this group, I immediately had an uneasy feeling with them.”
Golferini has filed a complaint with the local police and turned to Interpol for further help.
Danner has been working as a model and fitness influencer online for around 10 years. He has about 1.5 million followers on Instagram and more than 1 million on TikTok.
He had rented Villa Alceo to celebrate the birthday of his fiancée Jessica de Oliveira. She is also a model and influencer. Danner posted photos and videos of the celebrations on social media where, in his latest post on TikTok, he states: “The less you care, the happier you’ll be.”