A CONTROVERSIAL sculpture which was removed from Colchester Library is set to go back on display.

The Crucifixion of Mankind, a giant mahogany carving by the late Connor Barrett which depicts a baby impaled on a sword, had been on display in the Trinity Square library since the 1980s.

But when Essex County Council moved in new services such as registrations of births, marriages and deaths the complaints were made about the sculpture's graphic nature.

On Friday, council bosses reached agreement with Firstsite to exhibit the carving in the Lewis Gardens gallery during the Wunderkammer exhibition.

Anne Brown, Essex County Council cabinet member for libraries, said: "The sculpture had to come down when we started some refurbishment work at Colchester Library and Community Hub to include other services, such as registration of births, marriages and deaths.

"When we discovered the public had made a number of comments about the artwork due to its proximity to the registration office, which deals with very sensitive cases including child bereavement, we decided it was no longer an appropriate location.

"Since then we’ve been working hard to find a new home for the sculpture and are delighted to have partnered with Firstsite gallery, which will give the carving pride of place in a new exhibition."

The piece depicts the crucifixion of Christ and a soldier stabbing a child - a reference to King Herod’s order for all infants in Bethlehem to be killed when Jesus was born.

Sally Shaw, Firstsite director, who labelled the carving "an extraordinary piece", said: "There are some truly astonishing collections of art and artefacts across Essex, many of which rarely see the light of day, or are tucked away in the corners of public buildings quietly overlooking town life.

"At Firstsite we are collaborating with our cultural partners in Colchester to begin to share some of these hidden gems.

"By bringing them together at Firstsite, we are offering them an opportunity to be seen in a new light."

The Wunderkammer exhibition will also include Arthur Ackland Hunt’s painting, 'Dr William Gilberd showing his experiments on electricity to Queen Elizabeth and her court', which is on loan from Colchester town hall council chamber.