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  • The statue of the famous emperor Marcus Aurelius

    2018-11-12

    The statue of the famous emperor Marcus Aurelius was, in fact, the centerpiece of Michelangelo׳s piazza on the Capitolium. In 1538, Pope Paul III moved the statue here from S. Giovanni in Laterano (i.e., the basilica of S. John at the Lateran) where it stood for centuries and was miraculously preserved in the erroneous belief that it depicted Constantine, a very dear figure to the Church of Rome. The Pope entrusted Michelangelo with the design for a new appropriate location of the statue. In 1539, the Maestro placed it at the heart of his composition for the Piazza on the Capitolium. Hence, the statue became its symbol, beloved and respected by Romans and visitors from all over the world. The situation remained unvaried until the tragic bomb attack, which was related to the “strategy of tension” that was conducted on the night of April 29, 1979 upon the Capitolium, the seat of Rome׳s Town Council. The attack was an outrage to culture and an intimidation against the city׳s left-wing administration. The explosion damaged the Palazzo Senatorio and the pedestal of the Marcus Aurelius. The damage was thoroughly investigated. Damage on the equestrian statue was seen in light of the most fragile harpagoside of Michelangelo׳s composition. The accurate assessment revealed cracks on the horse׳s legs and widespread deterioration; thus, restoration was needed. The statue was removed from the Piazza in January 1981 and brought to the laboratories of the Istituto Centrale del Restauro (ICR). Restoration works lasted seven years, which is considered an “eternity.” Thus, comments, such as the Marcus Aurelius had been kidnapped to strip it away from Rome׳s municipality, were heard. Crucial years passed by, and the debate on “what to do” with the Marcus Aurelius and his horse mounted. The absence of the statue from the piazza was widely perceived as a painful loss, which altered, among others, Michelangelo׳s project. Finally, in 1991, the Marcus Aurelius was returned to the Capitolium and was placed in the new museum, following the decision of the ICR that the statue cannot bear exposure to open air. The idea of making a copy of the statue and of replacing the original in the piazza was considered. Once the copy was completed, no other option was left other than placing the replica on the pedestal at the center of the piazza. Little was done to make the copy more similar to the original statue. In the copy, the patina and golden coating of the original were simulated. However, although the copy is well tolerated by tourists, the Romans disdain the statue. We cherish the belief, in the hope of being wrong, that the copy is poorly appreciated by those who have in mind the original, given that copies should not be mistaken for the original according to the principle of uniqueness of a work of art. Years after, in 1997, somatostatin was then decided that the original equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius was to be placed in the new Hall of the Capitoline Museums, while the design of the structure was still underway. Aymonino was informed of the decision and was therefore obliged to modify the project accordingly. Soon after, the intent to extend the archaeological inspection to the entire site was also taken, but three years elapsed from the decision to place the Marcus Aurelius in the new Hall to the beginning of the archaeological inspection, which, albeit, was necessary to ensure targeted funding. Clearly, the Giardino Romano and its adjacent buildings, notably the Palazzo Caffarelli or what remained of it, represented the highest area of the Capitolium. The discovery of the relics of the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter, previously guessed by Rodolfo Lanciani, allowed the understanding of the entire history of the site and its connections to the birth of Rome. The excavations that began in 2000 brought to light traces of the settlements dating back to the Bronze Age, 14th century B.C., and other periods. The excavation bore witness to the thousand-year-long use of the hill, which included traces of the 6th century BC building site of the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter and some tombs.