Hirst's Verity statue unveiled

Damien Hirst's controversial statue of a naked, pregnant woman wielding a sword has taken her place on a Devon seafront.

The 20 metre (66ft) bronze monument has been given on a 20-year loan by the artist to the coastal town of Ilfracombe in north Devon.

Opinions are divided over whether the 25 tonne "Verity" would be an asset to the town, with some describing the statue as "a monstrosity" and "an affront to public decency". But crowds arrived to brave the elements and welcome Verity, the statue having spent the last few days being assembled in a harbourside car park.

The effort to hoist Verity into place was nearly felled by the gusty conditions as winds whipped around the bronze icon. But, as the sun was beginning to dip over the horizon, engineers finally hoisted the statue and positioned her in place.

Ilfracombe mayor Lynda Courtnadge said: "There was initial curiosity and now there is history in the making. It was a unique opportunity to see a statue put in place by the most successful living artist. We are very fortunate and very appreciative of the loan of the statue by Damien Hirst, we are very grateful."

Hirst, who owns a restaurant in Ilfracombe and lives in north Devon, described Verity as "a modern-day allegory for truth and justice". The figure's stance is taken from Edgar Degas's late 19th century Little Dancer of Fourteen Years and is referenced by Hirst in his earlier bronze, Virgin Mother, from 2005.

Some described the anatomical cross-section of her head and body revealing the developing foetus in her womb as garish, while others disapproved of the woman's naked breast. But the mayor added: "I think eventually people will be won over. Having seen it today, it wasn't quite as 'horrific' as they expected. There were hundreds of people here today and the vast majority were in favour of it."

The title is from the Italian word for truth, while she holds the traditional symbols denoting justice - a sword and scales. The scales are hidden and off balance behind her back while the sword is held confidently in her upstretched arm.

Writing on his website, Hirst said: "Without the perfect equilibrium enacted by the scales, the sword becomes a dangerous instrument of power, rather than justice."

Verity was made in over 40 individual castings at Pangolin Editions foundry in Gloucestershire. The frame was fabricated in a single piece of stainless steel. The bronze parts were cast in pieces using sand moulds, which were then metalworked and reassembled around the steel frame.