The Streets of Rome: Via del Babuino

Baboon Street? Can it possibly be?

One of the most prestigious streets in Rome, stretching from Piazza di Spagna to Piazza del Popolo, home to Tiffany & Co., named after a large monkey?

Well, not exactly.

About halfway down Via del Babuino, on the left as you walk to Piazza del Popolo, you will find a simple fountain boasting an odd mossy statue, Il Babuino.

The body of Il Babuino is an ancient sculpture of a Silenus, a Roman mythological creature half man, half goat. The head has clearly been replaced, but from where I have yet to discover. The statue was moved here by Patrizio Grandi to be incorporated into the fountain outside his home on what was formerly Via Paolina. The statue became referred to as "the baboon" because of its unpleasant appearance, and the name stuck. So much so that eventually the street was officially renamed for it.

Eventually, Il Babuino became one of the six Talking Statues of Rome, called as such because, beginning in the 16th century, they were used by the people to post complaints and commentary, generally about the church or the state. Often written in Roman dialect or rhyme, or both, the "Pasquinades" as they were called (named after the most famous talking statue, Pasquino) were (and still are) clever and entertaining ways for people to voice their opinions anonymously.

Il Babuino's most famous Pasquinade was posted as Napoleon's troops plundered Rome, carrying off countless artistic treasures, many of which have yet to be returned. It read: 

"I francesi sono tutti ladri? No, non tutti... ma 'Buona Parte'!"

("Are all Frenchmen thieves? No, not all... but most of them!")

More on the Talking Statues tomorrow...

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