Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

  entry Mar 2012           

Statuary, Monuments & Structures in the Villa Comunale

This is n.3 in a series. To part 1;   part 2;    part 4;    part 5;    part 6.

On the left, below, is another of the statues atop the east entrance to the Villa. It, too, is by Andrea Violani and is a copy of an original in the Louvre. It depicts Selinus with the child Bacchus. Bacchus is the Latin name for the Greek, Dionysus, the god of wine. Obviously, in this version, he is an infant and still learning the ropes on his way to full-blown wino-hood. Not to worry; he is in the arms of Selinus, his teacher and faithful companion, described in sources as an old satyr or old rustic God of the dance of the wine-press.

On the right is The Abduction of Proserpina by Pluto. It was put in place in 1860 for the foundation of the "Salvator Rosa" Society of Fine Arts. This is a copy by Violani of the original by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The original is currently in the Galleria Borghese in Rome. In mythology, Proserpina is one of the Roman goddesses in various myths dealing with life, death and renewal symbolized in the cyclical changes of the seasons.

This is poet Giosuè Carducci (1835-1907), the first Italian to win the Nobel Prize for literature (1906). He was and still is generally regarded as the national poet of the then young and new nation state of modern Italy. His poetry evokes the glories of the classical age and the pastoral purity of ancient Italy and aims at finally restoring that same sense of "Italy" to a long-fragmented people. Carducci was, indeed, a fervent supporter of the risorgimento, the movement to unify Italy in the 19th century. Of the many busts of "civilians" in the Villa Comunale, this appears to be the only one of a person not directly connected to Naples and may be seen simply as a tribute to Italy's greatest poet of the age. The bust is located near the west end of the long Dohrn Aquarium building, at one of the side exits of the park. It faces out to the south, directly over the seaside road. It is the work of Calabrian sculptor, Saverio Gatto (1877-1962) and was erected in 1915. The bust is inscribed with a fragment of Carducci's poetry.

On the left, below, is Faun Carrying a Goat-kid. It is the first statue on the right after you enter the east entrance. It is copy by Violani of an ancient original and was done in 1760, not too long after Violani started sculpting to populate the gardens of Caserta. There is no indication when it was moved to the Villa Comunale.

Past the midway point through the Villa Comunale on the main promenade is an obelisk (photo, right). I approached it with some trepidation. (Maybe it was a Masonic ray-gun.) There is no inscription on it, anywhere. (See how clever they are?!) As it turns out, you don't need an inscription. As long as the sun is out, the obelisk works just fine. It's a sundial, or more precisely, the gnomon of a sundial, the center-pin that casts the shadow that touches markers on a semi-circle laid out in front to tell you what time it is. I didn't find any, but I didn't look very hard. I have a wristwatch. The obelisk was erected in 1834.

This is the largest monument in the Villa Comunale. It is a tribute to the great Neapolitan philosopher, Giambattista Vico (1668-1744). (See this link for the main entry on his life.) The monument is not only the largest, but it has the weirdest story behind it. The monument in marble was the idea of prince Leopold of Bourbon (1813-1860), the uncle of the last king of the Two Sicilies (aka Kingdom of Naples), Francis II. And—this is the good part—prince Leopold did it himself! He was the only one in the royal family interested in sculpture, or at least the only one with the ability to put his hammer and chisel where his mouth was. Not only that, he was a revolutionary who agitated for the overthrow of the Bourbons and the unification of Italy. Revisionist art historians have proposed the idea that the monument was the work not of the prince but rather of his pupils, Marcinise Onofrio Buccini (1825-96)


to part 1;   part 2;   part 4part 5;    part 6.

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