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Tucked away near the exit of the Boboli Gardens in Florence, over-looking a rather forlorn corner of a car park, is this marvellous rendition of Bacchus. It is actually a copy of the original by one Valerio Cioli and shows Cosimo I’s court dwarf, Pietro Barbino (a man not shy of pasta it would appear), as Bacchus astride a turtle. Bacchus of course being the Roman god of wine.

Photograph: Bacchus Fountain, Boboli Gardens, Florence

Bacchus Fountain

We find in it reminiscences of ancient representations of the wine god Bacchus. But Cioli’s representation of the dwarf, with his right hand stretched forward in a gesture of peace and amity, is also indebted to the ancient equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, which he could have studied in detail during his stay in Rome in 1548/49. Cioli’s response to the illustrious prototype, however, is parodic: the dwarf’s ride on the tortoise is given a farcical dimension not only by the grotesque figure of the rider, but also by the legendary slowness and inertia of the animal. In this sense, the statue reflects the interest of the contemporary public in satirical representations. The sculpture was originally installed under a pergola on the garden façade of the Palazzo Pitti, but was converted into a fountain figure in 1579 and moved to the north-eastern entrance to the Boboli Gardens. There it was replaced by a copy in 1986, while the original, after thorough restoration, was rehoused in the Stanzonaccio. expo.khi.fi.it

The trip to Florence was sponsored by American Express and Starwood.

1 Comment »

  1. Bacchus as a dwarf astride a turtle. It can’t really get any more wonderfully randon can it?! Lovely shot!

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