Naples:life,death &
                Miracle contact: Jeff Matthews

  entry Mar 2012                

Statuary, in the Villa Comunale

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

Placed at the corners of the small square where the Four Lions fountain is located (see part 1) are four half-figures mounted on pedestals. They represent the Four Seasons. Two of the figures unfortunately show severe damage to the stone. The two that are in relatively good condition are Autumn and Winter (left and right, respectively, below). Autumn is depicted as a young satyr holding a bunch of grapes aloft; Winter is hooded and somber. Sources do not name the sculptor but merely attribute them to "an anonymous artist from Carrara of the late 1700s."

The half figures are similar in kind to another group of four at the far western end of the park, about 500 meters beyond this group. The two groups are attributed to the same anonymous sculptor and are located at the point where there was once a western exit to the old Royal Villa, long since closed. Sources describe them as "Bacchantes and dancers." A Bacchante in Roman mythology is a female follower of Bacchus, god of wine and intoxication. Bacchantes are sometimes depicted as mad or wild women, running through the forest engaging in acts of frenzied intoxication. This group is rather sedate. They are, in fact, smiling! (On the other hand, that could be frenzied, intoxicated laughter.) Of the four statues, three are female. Again, these works are not in particularly good condition. The only one I felt worth a photograph is the single male figure, apparently a satyr or faun:

At the western end of the Villa Comunale there is one of the most interesting group sculptures in the park. It is placed on the southern side of the premises at a point that was almost at water's edge before the construction of the broad seaside road, via Caracciolo. It depicts The Abduction of Europa (photo, right). In Greek mythology, Europa was one of the daughters of Oceanus and Tethys. Zeus, the "father of the gods" and ruler of Olympus, intent on seducing Europa, transformed himself into a tame white bull and mixed with her father's herd in order to get close to her. While she and her female attendants were gathering flowers, she saw the bull, caressed his flanks, and got onto his back. Zeus saw his chance and ran to the sea and swam, carrying her to the island of Crete. The scene is often depicted in literature and art, including a well-known painting, The Rape of Europe, by Titian from 1562. (As in other uses of the word "rape" in similar classical references to, for example, the "rape" of the Sabine women, "abduction" is a more accurate word in modern English.) This sculpture is facing inward, that is, away from the sea and shows Europa mounted on the bull while her handmaidens reach out to help her. It is one of the few classical works in the park not by Andrea Violani or Tommaso Solari. It was done between 1789-95 by the Neapolitan sculptor, Angelo Viva (1748-1837). The work was installed in the park in 1807 and was restored in 1927 by Francesco Parente.

The unification of Italy in 1861 brought with it a change to the nature of statuary in the Villa Comunale. The park was opened to the public; the classical period was over and the premises now became a venue to display sculpted tributes to "civilians" (!), i.e. busts of prominent Neapolitans from various walks of life. There are about 15 of these; they were done and installed in the latter half of the 1800s and early 1900s. The photo on the left is of Giovanni Bovio (1841-1903), jurist, philosopher and university professor. He was the father of Libero Bovio, prominent Neapolitan poet and playwright. Note that Father gave Son a first name that means "free"; that tells us that Father was a radical anti-monarchist and exponent of such things as freedom of speech! The pedestal bears the date of the installation, MCMXV, and the name of the sculptor, Enrico Mossuti (1849-1920). The sculptor was very much in demand in the early 1900s; many of works are tributes to persons of the Italian risorgimento, free-thinkers and historical iconoclasts and rebels such as Giordano Bruno.

to part 1;  part 3;  part 4; part 5; part 6

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