Pasquino and talking statues
Pasquino, Marforio, Madama Lucrezia, Facchino, Abbot Luigi and Babuino: our journey leads us to the discovery of six statues of the capital that, from the beginning of the sixteenth to the entire nineteenth century, were the protagonists of irreverent, ironic and straightforward satire by unknown authors. Also known as the Congress of the Argutes, the "talking statues" soon became true stone paladins to which the Romans hung, during the night, satiric signs against the corruption of the papacy and the ruling classes, so that in the morning they could be seen and read by anyone. The Romans began to give nicknames to the six statues, including the most famous was "Pasquino" and from this derived the custom of calling "pasquinate" the satires. Let's start from Piazza del Campidoglio to know them one by one.
Located in the courtyard of Palazzo Nuovo, near the Capitoline Museums, Marforio represents the figure of a relaxed man, perhaps the allegory of a river, probably the Tiber, or perhaps Neptune, the god of the seas. Considered the "shoulder" of Pasquino, in some of the satires the two statues dialogued among themselves: while one asked questions about social problems or politics, the other gave stinging and witty answers.
At the corner of Palazzo Venezia and the Basilica of S. Marco, we meet Madama Lucrezia, the only female representative of the "Congrega degli Arguti". Coming from a temple dedicated to Isis, the statue depicts a woman, perhaps the same deity or perhaps a priestess of the cult. Madame Lucrezia was actually Lucrezia d'Alagno, a noblewoman who lived right in Piazza San Marco where the statue is located.
Not far from Madama Lucrezia, on Via Lata, we find a small fountain: it is the talking statue of the Porter, a small fountain representing a male figure in the act of pouring water from a barrel; the dress worn by the figure is the typical costume of the porters' guild, hence the name of the character.
Continuing on Via del Corso we find the talking statue of a silenus lying on the side of a fountain, which due to its ugliness was nicknamed by the Roman people Er Babuino. The Babuino immediately entered into competition with Pasquino, so that the satirical phrases hanging from his neck were called "babuinate".
Beside the Church of Sant'Andrea della Valle, we find the Abbot Luigi, so called by the people because it seems there was a strong resemblance to a true Abbot Louis, the sacristan of the nearby church of the Sudarium. The statue was found at the end of the sixteenth century in the foundations of the Vidoni palace; probably depicts a consul or a Roman senator. Over the centuries it has unfortunately been the subject of vandalism and several times beheaded, so the head is the result of continuous substitutions. It is precisely on the occasion of yet another beheading, which took place in 1966, that the statue sentenced: "O you who besieged me the head, see d'ariportalla immantinente, sinnò, vòi véde?"
We conclude our walk with the statue of Pasquino, which is located from 1501 in the square that takes its name, Piazza Pasquino, behind Piazza Navona. Pasquino is a male bust that portrays perhaps a king or a hero of Ancient Greece. The origin of its name is uncertain and seems to derive from the fact that the statue was found in the shop of a barber or in a tavern whose owner was called Pasquino. One of the most famous phrases for which Pasquino is known is addressed to Pope Urban VIII, of the Barberini family, who had some parts removed from the Pantheon to use them in the realization of the canopy of St. Peter's: "Quod non fecerunt Barbari, fecerunt Barberini".