Years ago I blogged about Rome’s Talking Statues. Our local celebrity Talking Statue is, hands down, the least attractive of the lot. Indeed, he’s named Babuino, the Baboon.
He wasn’t supposed to be a baboon. He’s supposed to be Silenus, a half-man, half-goat (or half-horse) creature who was a friend and teacher of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. He’s usually depicted as a balding, bearded, and portly old man, often in an inebriated condition (and, therefore, often reclining or being carried).
But, Romans found the statue so ugly they called it the Baboon, and the name stuck. They even gave the street its name. Babuino reclines in a place of honor on Via del Babuino, in front of the charming bar Caffè Canova – Tadolini, and next to Chiesa di S. Atanasio dei Greci, a lovely Greek church, which I actually was able to go into last year, after years of walking by it when it was closed.
Babuino and the fountain upon which he reclines just came out of a €25,000 restoration funded by the high-end Rome-based clothing company, Brioni (which has a store on Via del Babuino, as well as on Via Condotti). My thanks go out to Brioni — while there has been some flack about commercial companies funding restoration and stabilization projects — Tod’s funded work on the Colosseum, Fendi funded the incredible work on the Trevi Fountain, and Bulgari is funding conservation work on the Spanish Steps — I am just plain grateful that the work is getting done instead of deferred for who knows how long.
But, I have to say, Babuino may be cleaned up, but he is still… really, really ugly. Maybe Brioni can give him a nice suit, and some designer shades? That might help.