~ Curious And Unusual ~

- 14 -

The Busts In The Pincian Gardens

228 personalities who brought prestige to Italy

The gardens on top of the Pincian Hill were the first public park ever opened in the city. Romans, as well as tourists, love to stroll along the shady paths and avenues that criss-cross this 6.5 hectare ~ 16.5 acre area, lined with a large series of marble busts, scattered all over the place. A few of them are also found by the bridge that connects the gardens to Villa Borghese. They feature Italian personalities who, over 25 centuries of history, distinguished themselves in several fields: among them are national heroes, monarchs and statesmen, painters and sculptors, scientists and inventors, novelists and poets, historians and philosophers; a good number of them are patriots and insurrectionists. But, curiously, no pope can be found in this long list (the reason for this will be understood reading the article).

This page outlines the history of the gardens, and provides a list of all the personalities featured together with a detailed map of their busts, the first of its kind, in the webmaster's own experience.

One of Rome's many hills, yet not one of the mythical seven over which the city was founded, stretches north of the central districts. Up to the 3rd century AD its position was about 1.5 Km or 1 mile off the northernmost city gate. Here many rich families used to build suburban villas, often with gardens, orchards and vineyards. As of 19 BC, the wealth of running water provided by the Aqua Virgo aqueduct, which crossed the hill before reaching the central districts, undoubtly enhanced this trend. This is why the place was initially named Collis Hortulorum ("small gardens hill").

One villa in particular, Horti Aciliorum, was the largest in size; it stretched over most part of the northen grounds of the hill, behind the present Villa Medici and Trinità dei Monti. It belonged to the Anicii, an outstanding family for most of the Republican Age and the Imperial Age, who also counted three popes among their members, including the famous Gregory I (the Great), by the end of the 6th century.
When emperor Aurelian started building a new set of city walls (271-275), the hill was included in the urban area, so to act as a natural boundary. Still today along its northern side, between two gates of the aforesaid wall (namely, Porta del Popolo and Porta Pinciana), stretches a row of fortified brick towers, which once acted as placements (more details in Aurelian's Walls, part I page 1).

In the 4th century the Pincii family became the owner of the Anicii's estate; by this time the name Pincian (Mons Pincius) came into use to indicate the site, and was maintained ever since, although after the fall of the Roman Empire (5th century) the high society rapidly fled from this part of the city.

Aurelian's wall acts as a boundary to the northern side of the gardens;
the tall structure in the centre is not one of the Roman towers, but
the old lifts, now no longer working, that once connected
the Pincian Hill to via del Muro Torto below

three names that need no introduction: Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto and Raphael

One thousand years later, in 1576, Ferdinando Medici, a cardinal belonging to the powerful Florentine family, purchased a villa that had been recently built on the Pincian Hill, in those days partly cultivated as a vineyard; the northernmost part of the hill, though, was still in a state of complete abandonment. Four more centuries elapsed before this grassland area was given again some attention by the local authorities.


Giuseppe Valadier drew the Pincian Gardens
In the early 1800s Rome, as well as most parts of Italy, fell to Napoleon's troops. Under French occupation, Villa Medici was requisitioned, and used as a French Academy for young artists. A few years later (1811-1814) the distinguished architect Giuseppe Valadier was given commission to design new gardens for the adjacent grassland area. The site should have been called Jardin du Grand César ("garden of the great Caesar").
When the papal government was restored after Napoleon's defeat, unlike many other projects started by the French administration, which the popes left unfinished, the gardens were completed. An old 17 century farm-house that stood there, built over the remains of a Roman water cistern, was turned into an elegant coffee-house in Neoclassic style, named Casina Valadier after its author.

In 1822 the ruling pope Pius VII provided the new gardens with a first dramatic embellishment: an ancient Roman obelisk dating back to the 2nd century AD, which in those days was kept in the Vatican, in the Courtyard of the Pine-cone, was moved to the Pincio Hill, to mark the central spot of the main avenue (for further details, see Obelisks, part III).

A first series of busts began to appear about 25 years later. In February 1849, the government of pope Pius IX was upthrown by the Roman Republic. In order to provide with an economic help the many unemployed artists who lived in Rome, the new administration set aside some funds, and gave commission to a number of sculptors to carve 52 busts of distinguished Italian personalities, as a decoration for the Pincian Gardens.

the elegant Casina Valadier

But four months later the papal government was once again restored, and only a few among the busts that had been carved were actually set into place; many others were taken to the Casina Valadier, and stored inside the building.

a small selection of the different fields whom the personalities featured in the hall of fame belong to:
from the left, a poet, a preacher, a painter, (bottom) a sculptor, a statesman and an insurrectionist

Then, in 1851, Pius IX decided to use also the ones that had been kept aside, except those of personalities who were frowned at, being considered revolutionists, heretics, or simply not friendly enough towards papacy. Around 1860 the 'censored' busts were given to other sculptors, in charge of altering their features; among others, poet Giacomo Leopardi became the ancient painter Zeuxis, the political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli was turned into Archimedes, and the hooded head of the radical Dominican priest Girolamo Savonarola was reshaped as that of Guido of Arezzo, the inventor of the musical notation presently in use, who also wore a cloak, being a monk.

censored personages: painter Zeuxis originally was meant to be
poet Giacomo Leopardi, while Archimedes was Niccolò Machiavelli
After the end of the Papal State (1870), many of the personages who had been replaced for political or ideological reasons were given justice, by having new busts carved and set in the gardens, side by side with the older ones. From time to time, further personalities were acknowledged with the honour of entering this national hall of fame. Presently, their total has reached 228 names.
Although the busts are considered as one large series, having been carved by many artists gives reason for their different styles. The latest ones (Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, Lorenzo Perosi) date back to the 1950s.

The Italian origins of some of the famous men celebrated in the Pincio gardens, particularly the earliest ones (Zeuxis, Archimedes, Pythagoras) could be seriously debated; nevertheless, including them in the series was motivated by good intentions.

Although the fall of the centuries-old papal regime brought a breath of fresh air to the people's mentality, chauvinism was still deeply rooted in the late 1800s society: out of 228 personages, only three of them are female, namely St.Catherine of Siena (14th century), Italy's saint patron, Vittoria Colonna, a noblewoman and a poet who lived in the first half of the 1500s, and Grazia Deledda, a distinguished writer, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1926.
two of the three women included in the series

three famous local glories: (from the left) dialect poets Giuseppe Gioachino Belli and Cesare Pascarella,
and painter and engraver Bartolomeo Pinelli; their works bring to life Rome's most traditional spirit

A.Secchi's bust, at the back of the Casina Valadier
One of the busts, dedicated to the 19th century astronomist Angelo Secchi, features a hole through the base on which it stands; as the inscription says, the hole is crossed by Rome's meridian, which was the first one ever determined in Italy. Secchi measured it by using a sight in the shape of a pillar, which once stood on the same spot of the bust, and by observing it with a telescope from the top of Rome's old astronomical observatory (Palazzo del Collegio Romano, also mentioned in Mid-day In Rome), whose director was Secchi himself, from 1849 to 1878. The bust was set in place shortly after his death.

Being exposed not only to the interest and the appreciation of visitors, but also to the carelessness and stupidity of vandals, the busts are often defaced by graffiti or, what is worse, rhey lose anatomic parts, particularly the nose, when not the whole head.

busts in need of restoration: noseless Galilei, scribbled Petrarch and headless Caesar

A careful work, sponsored by the City Council, is frequently carried out on the damaged statues, and the missing parts are replaced with new ones. For this purpose, a whole collection of casts of the bust's noses has been established, housed in a depository, thanks to which a faithful restoration can be performed, when needed.

Curiously, a series of busts similar to the ones of the Pincian Hill, yet smaller in number (a total of 82), dedicated to 19th century patriots, is located in the gardens above the Janiculum Hill, the other main panoramic spot in Rome, arranged in the same way, almost creating a symmetrical contrast effect with this older series of personages.

The following table provides a full list of the personalities featured in the Pincio Gardens; their numbers correspond to the ones featured in the map below (to open the full-sized map, click on its shrinked version). Their ranking in the list is arbitrary and mainly based on the location of the relevant bust.

poet Giacomo Leopardi's intense expression:
his nose is one of the many that were restored

NOTE - By the time this list was compiled (December 2006), a few busts appeared to be headless, and a few others were missing: they are indicated in the list with the  H  and  M  signs, respectively. Corrections concerning any future variation and/or mistake in the list are warmly welcome.

click on the map to expand it
1) Vincenzo Monti (1754-1828), poet
2) Domenico Cimarosa (1749-1801), composer
3) Antonio Canova (1757-1822), sculptor
4) Paolo Mascagni (1752-1815), anatomist
5) Gaetano Filangieri (1752-88), jurist
6) Ennio Quirino Visconti (1751-1818), archaeologist
7) Antonio Nibby (1792-1839), archaeologist
8) Alessandro Vessella (1860-1929), musician
9) Armando Spadini (1833-1925), painter
10) Alessandro Volta (1745-1827), physicist
11) Cesare Beccaria (1738-94), philosopher and politician
12) Giuseppe Luigi Lagrangia * (1736-1813), mathematician
13) Pietro Verri (1728-97), philosopher and economist
14) Vittorio Alfieri (1749-1803), dramatist
15) Giuseppe Parini (1729-99), poet
16) Carlo Goldoni (1707-93), playwright
17) Giuseppe Valadier (1762-1839), architect
18) Pietro Metastasio (1698-1782), poet
19) Giovanni M. Lancisi (1654-1720), physician and pathologist
20) Scipione Maffei (1675-1755), archaeologist and dramatist
* Italianized form of Joseph-Louis Lagrange

21) Pietro Colletta (1775-1831), patriot and historian
22) Atto Vannucci (1810-83), patriot and historian
23) Lodovico A. Muratori (1672-1750), archaeologist and historian
24) Federico Cesi (1585-1630), naturalist
25) Giambattista Vico (1668-1744), philosopher
26) Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), physicist and astronomer
27) Carlo Maratta (1625-1713), painter
28) Enrico Pessina (1828-1916), patriot and jurist
29) Masaniello (1620-47), insurrectionist
30) Paolo Sarpi (1552-1623), historian and theologist
31) Giuseppe Pisanelli (1812-79), jurist and statesman
32) Angelo Celli (1857-1914), hygienist
33) Camillo Aprile Finocchiaro (1851-1916), statesman
34) Alberigo Gentili (1552-1608), jurist
35) Salvator Rosa (1615-73), painter
36) Raimondo Montecuccoli (1609-80), general
37) Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), philosopher
38) Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1680), architect and sculptor
39) Torquato Tasso (1544-95), poet
40) Giovanni Battista Grassi (1854-1925), physician and biologist

41) Giacomo Barozzi aka Vignola (1507-1573), architect
42) Baldassarre Peruzzi (1481-1536), architect
43) Giacomo Leopardi (1798-1837), poet
44) Paolo Caliari aka Veronese (1528-88), painter
45) Annibal Caro (1507-66), poet and translator
46) Andrea Palladio (1508-1580), architect
47) Giovanni Battista De Rossi (1822-94), archaeologist
48) Masaccio (1401-28), painter
49) Luca Della Robbia (1400-82), sculptor
50) Antonio Panizzi (1797-1879), librarian
51) Mastro Giorgio (1465-1553), potter
52) Nicolò Tartaglia (1499-1577), mathematician
53) Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli (1397-1492) cartographer and cosmographer
54) Carlo Cattaneo (1801-69), historian and politician
55) Pietro Cavallini (1240/50-1340/50), painter and mosaicist
56) Giovanni Prati (1814-84), poet
57) Lorenzo Valla (1407-57), philosopher
58) Francesco Lomonaco (1772-1810), patriot
59) Marsilio Ficino (1433-99), translator
60) Giulio Pomponio Leto (1428-98), humanist

61) Gabriele Rossetti (1783-1854), revolutionist and scholar
62) Antonio Baldissera (1838-1917), general
63) Tommaso Gulli (1879-1820), captain
64) Emanuele Filiberto (1528-1580), duke of Savoy
65) Guglielmo Oberdan (1858-1882), patriot
66) Attilio Deffenu (1890-1918), unionist and politician
67) Filippo Corridoni (1888-1915), unionist
68) Fulcieri Paolucci de Calboli (1893-1919), WW I hero
69) Fabio Filzi (1884-1916), patriot
70) Nazario Sauro (1880-1916), WW I hero
71) Cesare Battisti (1875-1916), WW I hero
72) Francesco Rismondo (1885-1915), WW I hero
73) Damiano Chiesa (1894-1916), WW I hero
74) Bartolomeo Eustachio (1503-74), anatomist and physician
75) Carlo del Prete (1897-1928), aviator
76) Fausto Cecconi (1904-31), aviator
77) Marcantonio Colonna (1535-84), general
78) Vittorio Montiglio (1901-29), WW I hero
79) Amedeo V di Savoia (1252/3-1323), count of Savoy
80) Giovanni Randaccio (1884-1917), WW I hero

81) Emilio Visconti-Venosta (1829-1914), statesman
82) Tommaso Minardi (1787-1871), painter
83) Vitruvius (1st century BC), engineer  H 
84) Lucretius (98 BC-55 BC), poet
85) Horace (65 BC-8 BC), poet
86) Virgil (70 BC-19 BC), poet
87) Julius Caesar (101 BC-44 BC), general and dictator  H 
88) Cicero (106 BC-43 BC), orator, statesman and philosopher
89) Pompey (106 BC-48 BC), general and politician
90) Gaius Marius (157 BC-86 BC), general
91) Scipio Africanus (236/5 BC-183 BC), general
92) Archimedes (287 BC-212 BC), mathematician and physicist
93) Zeuxis (424 BC-394 BC), painter
94) Pythagoras (571 BC-597 BC), mathematician
95) Stesichorus (633/29 BC-556/3 BC), poet
96) Francesco Domenico Guerrazzi (1804-73), writer and patriot
97) Cesare Fracassini (1838-68), painter
98) Luigi Poletti (1792-1869), architect
99) Giovanni Battista Salvi aka Sassoferrato (1609-85), painter
100) Pietro Della Valle (1585-1652), traveller

101) Pasquale Paoli (1725-1807), patriot
102) Fortunato Mizzi (1844-1905), politician and patriot
103) Angelo Secchi (1818-78), astronomer
104) Francesco Guglielmotti (1812-93), historian
105) Salvatore Greco (1835-1910), patriot
106) Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-82), general
107) Paolo Segneri (1624-94), writer and preacher
108) Gratian (12th century), ecclesiastical law jurist
109) Thomas of Aquino (1125-74), philosopher
110) Antonio Rosmini (1797-1855), political reformer and philosopher
111) Napoleon I (1769-1821), emperor
112) Barnaba Tortolini (1808-74), mathematician and physicist
113) Bettino Ricasoli (1809-80), statesman
114) Luigi Calamatta (1801-69), sculptor and engraver
115) Filippo Cordova (1811-68), politician and patriot
116) Luigi Canina (1795-1856), architect
117) Angelo Mai (1782-1854), librarian and scholar
118) Papinian (142-212), jurist and prefect  H 
119) Giovanni Lanza (1810-82), statesman
120) Michele Amari (1806-89), statesman and scholar

121) Vittoria Colonna (1490-1547), poetess
122) Carlo Armellini (1777-1863), statesman
123) Filippo Maria Renazzi (1742-1808), lawyer and historian
124) Giuseppe Venturoli (1768-1846), engineer
125) Alfonso La Marmora (1804-78), general and statesman
126) Angelo Brofferio (1802-66), poet, politician and patriot
127) Grazia Deledda (1871-1936), writer
128) Gregorio Ugdulena, (1815-72), scholar
129) Luigi Carlo Farini (1812-66), statesman
130) Pellegrino Rossi (1787-1848), statesman
131) Urbano Rattazzi (1808-73), statesman
132) Giuseppe Giusti (1809-60), poet
133) Virginio Vespignani (1808-82), architect
134) Pietro Tenerani (1789-1869), sculptor
135) Giuseppe Gioachino Belli (1791-1863), poet
136) Cesare Pascarella (1858-1940), poet
137) Pietro Cossa (1830-81), poet and dramatist
138) Aldus Manutius (1449-1515), typographist
139) Giorgio Trivulzio Pallavicino (1796-1878), patriot
140) Aleardo Aleardi (1812-78), patriot

141) Nicola Cavalieri San Bertolo (1788-1867), engineer
142) Camillo Benso di Cavour (1810-61), statesman  M 
143) Aurelio Saliceti (1804-62), statesman
144) Daniele Manin (1804-57), statesman and patriot
145) Vincenzo Bellini (1801-35), composer
146) Niccolò Tommaseo (1802-74), writer and patriot
147) Giuseppe Mazzini (1805-72), statesman and patriot
148) Vincenzo Gioberti (1801-52), politician and philosopher
149) Massimo d'Azeglio (1798-66), statesman, patriot and novelist
150) Enrico Morozzo della Rocca (1807-97), general
151) Giovanni Sgambati (1841-1914), composer
152) Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848), composer
153) Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-94), composer
154) Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), composer
155) Saverio Mercadante (1795-1870), composer
156) Francesco Puccinotti (1794-1872), physician
157) Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), composer
158) Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868), composer
159) Silvio Pellico (1789-1854), writer and patriot
160) Cesare Balbo (1789-1853), statesman and writer

161) Bartolomeo Pinelli (1781-1835), painter and engraver
162) Maurizio Bufalini (1787-1875), physician
163) Pietro Raimondo (1786-1853), composer
164) Tiziano Vecellio (1488/90-1576), painter
165) Sebastiano Serlio (1475-1554), architect  H 
166) Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533), poet
167) Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), architect, sculptor and painter
168) Nicolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), political philosopher
169) Andrea Doria (1466-1560), admiral  M 
170) Pico della Mirandola (1463-94), humanist and philosopher  M 
171) Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), painter and engineer
172) Antonio Salandra (1853-1931), statesman
173) Vittorio Emanuele Orlando (1860-1952), statesman
174) Giovanni Giolitti (1842-1928), statesman
175) Sidney Sonnino (1847-1922), statesman
176) Arnaldo da Brescia (12th century), preacher
177) Guido of Arezzo (922-1050), music theorist
178) Tacitus (55-120), historian
179) Pliny the Elder (23/24-79), naturalist and writer  H 
180) Guglielmo Pepe (1783-1855), general and patriot

181) Paolo Baldassarre Mercuri (1804-84), designer and engraver
182) Camillo Angelo De Meis (1817-91), anthropologist and patriot
183) Mario Pagano (1748-99), philosopher
184) Giovanni Pascoli (1855-1912), poet
185) Arnaldo Fusinato (1817-88), poet and patriot
186) St.Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), Dominican nun
187) Guglielmo Massaia (1809-89), missionary and cardinal
188) Giacomo Zanella (1820-88), poet
189) Ercole Consalvi (1757-1824), cardinal
190) Francesco Carrara (1805-88), jurist
191) Vincenzo Giordano Orsini (1817-89), general and patriot
192) Francesco De Sanctis (1817-83), literary critic and patriot
193) Giacinto Albini (1821-84), patriot
194) Cola Di Rienzo (1313-1354), politician and insurrectionist
195) Enrico Dandolo (1108-1205), crusader and Venetian doge
196) Petrarch (1304-1374), poet
197) Giotto (1267-1337), painter
198) Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), poet
199) Marco Polo (1254-1324), traveller
200) Gino Capponi (1792-1876), historian and patriot

201) Giovanni da Procida (1210-98), diplomat
202) Girolamo Savonarola (1452-98), preacher
203) Lorenzo de' Medici (1449-92), ruler and patron to the arts
204) Donato Lazzari aka Bramante (1444-1514), architect
205) Christophorus Columbus (1451-1506), navigator
206) Stefano Porcari (?-1453), nobleman and insurrectionist
207) Leon Battista Alberti (1404-72), architect
208) Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1466), architect
209) Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-75), novelist
210) Lorenzo Ghiberti (1378-1455), sculptor and architect
211) Benvenuto Cellini (1500-71), goldsmith and sculptor
212) Giovanni de' Medici aka dalle Bande Nere (1498-1534), captain
213) Antonio Allegri aka Correggio (1498-1534), painter
214) Giulio Romano (1499-1546), painter

215) Francesco De Marchi (1504-76), architect and engineer
216) Raphael (1483-1520), painter and architect
217) Jacopo Tatti aka Sansovino (1486-1570), architect and sculptor
218) Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873), novelist and poet
219) Giovanni Battista Nicolini (1782-1861), dramatist and patriot
220) Ugo Foscolo (1778-1827), writer and poet
221) Vincenzo Camuccini (1771-1844), painter
222) Pietro Giordani (1774-1848), patriot
223) Carlo Botta (1766-1837), physician, historian and patriot
224) Feliciano Scarpellini (1762-1840), astronomist
225) Giandomenico Romagnosi (1761-1835), jurist and patriot
226) Carlo Fea (1753-1836), archaeologist
227) Luigi Luzzatti (1841-1927), economist and statesman
228) Lorenzo Perosi (1872-1956), composer