The 6 talking statues of Rome are one of the most exciting things to see but simultaneously one of the city’s most underrated figures. Iconic of the vox populi, the statues have a rich history.
The 6 statues have their name from the fact that people made them “talk” by attaching caustic and satirical messages to their pedestal as a form of anonymous protest against the religious and civil authorities of Rome
Moreover, these figures were some informal representation made by the people of Rome at a period when ordinary people were not allowed to express protest or criticism in public. The protest also continues nowadays, where suggestions and claims are posted to the statues.
Among the six talking statues, the Pasquino is the most famous one. It was renowned between the 16th and 19th centuries. Most probably, “Pasquino” derives from a barber, a blacksmith, or a cobbler near whose shop the statue was found. Moreover, there is a belief that Pasquino was the owner of a restaurant located in Piazza di Parione (Piazza di Pasquino nowadays) or a teacher whose pupils, having noticed some similarities with the statue itself, began to mock him by affixing paper with messages on his neck.
With time, these messages became signs of protest since they were written with aggressive and brute satiric comments about popes living in excellent conditions while Roman people used to struggle. These posted messages became known as “pasquinate” from the name of the statue.
The Pasquino is a fragment of previous work in a Hellenic style dating back to the 3rd century
Its face and limbs are damaged, which may work as the representation of Menelaus, a character in the epic poem the Iliad. The statue kept quiet until 1938 when it emerged again during preparation for Hitler’s visit to Rome to criticize the government, which was placing cardboard panels to keep out Roman suburbs and their poverty from Hitler’s sight.
Il Facchino (The Porter Fountain) statue was initially located on Via del Corso (one of the main shopping streets of Rome), on the main facade of Palazzo de Carolis Simonetti, which houses the Banco di Roma. However, in 1874, it was moved to its current location in Via Lata, on a side facade of the same building, to protect it from pollution.
The statue was created in 1580 and is considered the youngest of the Talking Statues. It represents an “acquarolo,” a man carrying a barrel who would take water from the Tiber River and sell it when the Roman aqueducts were under reconstruction process and all Roman fountains were dry.
The statue was carried out by the sculptor Jacopo Del Conte on behalf of the “Acquaroli Association”
The colossal statue has been known as Marforio since the 12th century. The name probably derives from its original location, which in medieval times was thought to have been a “Forum of Mars” (Matris Forum) in the area between the Roman Forum and the Imperial Forums.
The statue is more than six meters long
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Most probably, Marforio represents the personification of Ocean, the god who reigned over all the world’s waters and dates to the 2nd or 3rd century AD. In 1592, the statue was moved to Piazza del Campidoglio, and nowadays, you can see it on the territory of the Capitoline Museums.
For centuries, Marforio was a”talking statue.” When the Palazzo Nuovo was built, the Marforio Fountain became a feature of the courtyard of the newest palace on Capitoline Hill (1644). When this building was transformed into the Capitoline Museums (1733), the fountain and the architectural perspective were revised by architect Filippo Barigioni. The statue was restored once again, this time by the Roman sculptor Carlo Antonio Napolioni.
Between September 2012 and February 2013, the ancient statue and the fountain were restored. This project was funded by Swarovski as part of its commitment to Art
Madame Lucrezia is located on the corner of Piazza San Marco (next to Piazza Venezia). This marble statue is probably associated with the goddess Isis. The nickname of the figure derives from a 15th-century Lucrezia who fell in love with the married king of Naples. Lucrezia came to Rome to ask the Pope the permission for the king to divorce, but it was denied. When the king died, Lucrezia stayed in Rome and lived near the Piazza San Marco.
During the Roman Republic, in 1799, the statue fell down from the pedestal and broke in eight pieces, and an unknown person from the Roman population, wrote on the back of the figure itself: “I can’t look at this any longer” alluding to the government in force
Abate Luigi symbolizes an orator or a magistrate wearing senator’s robes. Previously, the popular representation gave the statue this name due to the similarity between the figure and the sexton of the Church of the Most Holy Shroud in Argentina, whose name was Luigi. However, since the statue was located outside, its head had to be replaced by another one in 1888 when the figure was moved to Palazzo Caffarelli-Vidoni. Unfortunately, this new head was stolen in the 1970s and was replaced again with a cast of the copy preserved at “Museo di Roma in Trastevere.”
“I was a citizen of Ancient Rome
Now all call me Abbot Louis
Along with Marforio and Pasquino I conquer
Eternal fame for Urban Satire
I received offenses, disgrace, and burial,
till here I found new life and finally safety”
Il Babuino (translated to “The Baboon”) represents a satyr with a grotesque expression adorning a tub fountain. The subject in the statue is probably Silenus, who is half man and half goat and is a companion of Dionysus. Moreover, the figure was not appealing to the Roman people and appeared ugly. It is located beside the Church of Sant’Atanasio dei Greci, on the street named after him, Via del Babuino.
The statue was created in honour of the Pope Pio V that in 1571 allowed some ounces of water from the Aqua Virgo aqueduct, one of the eleven roman aqueducts that supplied the city of ancient Rome, to let to the noble Grandi’s palace in front of which Il Babuino is still located nowadays
Have you ever seen the Roman talking statues? 🙂
Author: Kate Zusmann
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