Rome Diaries - Week 13

From 2006 to 2011 Paulist Father Tom Holahan served as vice rector of the Paulist

church in Rome. During that time he had the opportunity to spend time exploring the

historic sites of Rome as well as the hidden ones. The blog features excerpts from this

travel diary. A new selection appears each week.

January 30th, 2007

Not a day goes by without scores of tourists snapping pictures of the Fountain of Moses on the eastern end of the Quirinal hill. It is a famously bad, 14-foot-high statue of Moses. The fountain itself was designed by the reputable Domenico Fontana, but the work of carving Moses fell to Prospero Antichi, known as Il Bresciano. He was primarily a modeler, that is, he created the wax models that a sculptor would use to guide him in carving the stone. This time, Bresciano, was given the stone-carving task himself. Unfortunately, he thought he could begin by going right to stone, as some sculptors, like Michelangelo, did. As the work progressed, his friends began having doubts about the proportions of the statue. Bresciano would have none of it. The fountain was dedicated about five years before the dwarfish statue was installed and when it was, the reaction was swift and clear—Bresciano’s Moses was a failure. The statue was lampooned in anonymous verse affixed to Pasquino, the ancient statue set up near Piazza Navona for tart public messages:

The fresh water is good and the fountain is beautiful;

with that monster above, however, it is no longer so.

Oh you, Sixtus, who keeps fast to your word,

Hang the new Michelangelo by his throat.

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He looks with a grim eye

At the water that rushes to his feet,