He Ain’t Pretty, but he’s Our Babuino

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.

Babuino, with his fountain
Babuino, with his little fountain

 

Babuino, looking happy
Babuino, looking happy after the recent conservation work

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).

Silenus on a donkey, detail from Piero de Cosimo's painting "The Discovery of Honey by Bacchus"
Silenus on a donkey, detail from Piero de Cosimo’s painting “The Discovery of Honey by Bacchus”

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.

Sant'Atanasio, Greek church on Via del Babuino
Sant’Atanasio, Greek church on Via del Babuino

 

Inside the church, the iconostasis
Inside the church, the iconostasis

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.

The Trevi Fountain during cleaning and restoration in 2015 ...
The Trevi Fountain during cleaning and restoration in 2015

 

The Trevi Fountain in 2016, in all it's glory!
The Trevi Fountain in 2016, in all it’s glory

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.

 

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