The talking statues

The name talking statues was given to the anthropomorphic stone sculptures to which in former times the Roman populace used to affix clandestine satires, usually attacking the government and its representatives.

Bocca della Verità, calco in gesso, 1911

These statues are: Marphorus, a masculine figure from imperial Rome shown lying on a couch and found in the courtyard outside the entrance to the Musei Capitolini; Madame Lucretia, a bust of a woman modelled on the daughter of Nicolò d'Alagno, Senator of Rome in 1428, located at the corner of the church of S. Marco in Palazzo Venezia; il Facchino, a masculine bust which rises from the hands of a stout man which emits a spring of water, found in niche in the Via Lata; il Babuino, a statue showing a Silenus (a mythological being which is shown swollen like a water sack), situated in the Via del Babuino; and the Scanderberg, a tondo showing the Albanian prince Giorgio Castriota known as Scanderberg (corrupted from the Roman “Scannabecchi”) positioned on the facade of his small palazzo in the street of the same name, near to the Via della Dateria. The mask of the Bocca della Verità merits a special mention: it has all the effects of a talking mouth, but performs a different function: it is believed to unmask liars. In the Museo di Roma in Trastevere plaster casts of the three of the most famous of these talking statues are displayed: Pasquino, the Abbot Luigi and the Bocca della Verità, they were created in 1911, and displayed in the Castel S. Angelo during the international Exhibition in Rome.

The plaster casts of the statues of Pasquino, Abbot Luigi and the Bocca della Verità, were created for the international Exhibition in Rome in 1911 and were displayed during the retrospective Exhibition in Castel Sant’Angelo. In the small section dedicated to Roman curiosites a number of casts and models of “curiosities”, which had given their names to the streets and piazzas of Rome were exhibited. Among these casts were Bocca della Verità and the “talking statues”, which today join the most significant nucleus of the materials on display at the Museo di Roma in Trastevere.
The casts of the statues are set up as reproductions of details of the urban furniture of archaeological interest; they also, however, display a connotation of popular use. This aspect can also be found in various of the films of the 50s and 70s, from Roman Holiday, made in 1953, with its famous scene to which the Bocca della Verità is the background, to Luigi Magni’s 1969 film In the Year of Our Lord, with Nino Manfredi in the role of a slipper maker who writes invective against the pontifical government and affixes if to the statue of Pasquino.