Friday, May 1, 2015

Giuseppe Gioachino Belli

Today's photos:

 

1. The monument/fountain in Trastevere dedicated to the famous Roman poet, Giuseppe Gioachino Belli.

2. This gives you a better idea of the location of the monument.

3. A close-up of Belli with his top hat and cane.

4. A close-up of one of the two fountains at the sides of the monument.

5. The low-relief carving on the base of the monument representing the river god Tiber and Romulus and Remus with the she-wolf.

6. The relief carving on the back of the monument is a copy of a watercolor by another famous Roman, Bartolomeo Pinelli.

7. This memorial to Pinelli is on Viale di Trastevere, just two blocks up the street from the Belli monument.

8. A close-up of the bust representing the god Janus at the top of Belli's monument.

9. Your view of the monument as you stand at the bus/tram stop.

10. The bar/pizzeria behind the monument is appropriately named and decorated!

 

Just on the Trastevere side of the river, at Ponte Garibaldi, there is a monument/fountain (photos 1, 2 & 9) which is very visible as it is located on the busy Viale di Trastevere directly in front of a tram and bus stop. It is important to the Romans and especially to the Trasteverini because of the statue represented on the monument. It is dedicated to the Roman poet, Giuseppe Gioachino Belli (1791-1863). Inaugurated in 1913, it is the work of Michele Tripisciano; the artist refused to accept compensation for it because of his devotion to the poet.

 

The statue depicting Belli (photo 3) is prominently located in the center of the monument, standing on a high base. He is pictured dressed in the attire of his day, complete with his ever present top hat and cane.

 

A curiosity

 

The cane which the poet holds in his left hand was originally made of wood. But since it was stolen several times by souvenir hunters, it was decided to substitute it with one made of iron, painted black to resemble wood, and permanently attached to the monument with cement to discourage attempts to steal it.

 

Two drinking fountains (photo 4) were attached to the monument, one on either side. A stream of water flows from the mouth of a mask and falls into a marble tub. Across the façade of the base is a low-relief carving (photo 5); it represents, on the left, the river god Tiber, since the river flows just a few yards away from the monument, and on the right, Romulus and Remus with the she-wolf. (For the story of Romulus and Remus see my book: The Sights of Rome, Chapter 22: Romulus and Remus and the She-Wolf.

 

Next to the statue of the poet is the simple dedicatory inscription in Italian:

 

    AL  SUO  POETA

        G.G.  BELLI

IL  POPOLO  DI  ROMA

           MCMXIII

 

The people of Rome (dedicate this monument) to their poet, G.G. Belli.

 

Most of the hundreds of people who stand in front of the monument every day, as they wait for a bus or the number 8 Tram, do not realize that, represented in relief on the back of it is a beautiful scene of daily life in the eighteenth century (photo 6), a copy of a famous watercolor by Bartolomeo Pinelli (photo 7). To complete the decorations, at the top of the monument is a stone bust representing the Roman god Janus (photo 8), identical to those on the nearby Ponte Fabricio at the Tiber Island. (For more about Bartolomeo Pinelli as well as Ponte Fabricio and the Tiber Island, see my book entitled: Tiber Island and the Basilica of St. Bartholomew, pp 21-22 and pp 47-48).

 

But who was this local poet, Giuseppe Gioachino Belli, and what did he do to deserve such a handsome monument? Born in Rome in 1791, he had a difficult youth after having been left an orphan by the deaths of his father and mother when he was just a child. In 1816 Belli married Maria Conti, a rich widow with whom he fathered a son, Ciro.

 

It was during this period, shortly after his marriage, that he began to write verses in the Roman dialect, Romanesco, writings which we know today under the title Sonetti romaneschi di Belli (Sonnets of Belli in Roman Dialect). There would eventually be 2,270 of them but, strangely enough, the poet kept them hidden and did not want his poems published. In fact, during Belli's lifetime only 23 of his 2,270 poems were published, all but one of them without his consent.

 

A curiosity

 

Before he died in 1863, Belli entrusted his manuscripts to a Vatican prelate by the name of Vincenzo Tizzani, ordering him to burn them after his death. (An episode which reminds us of the great Roman poet Virgil who had likewise ordered one of his collaborators to burn his manuscript of The Aeneid after his death, an order which, through the intervention of the emperor Augustus, was fortunately never carried out). Monsignor Tizzani could not bring himself to destroy Belli's poems; he conserved them and eventually handed them over to the poet's son, Ciro, who had them published, but only in 1866, three years after his father's death.

 

Belli traveled much in his lifetime, but almost exclusively within Italy: Venice, Naples, Florence and Milan, always returning to Rome. Besides the home of his birth in Via Monterone and the one in which he died in Via Cesarini, Belli would also reside in four other homes in the city.

 

A curiosity

 

It is interesting to note that Belli was opposed to the establishment of the Roman Republic of 1849, and hence a faithful defender of the Papal State of Pius IX Mastai Ferretti (1846-1878). This despite the fact that he was often critical of the habits and customs of the clergy. Famous is his clever transformation of the acronym SPQR (Senatus PopulusQue Romanus, the Senate and Roman People) into Soli Preti Qui Regnano, Only Priests Rule Here!

 

(For more about this famous acronym, see: The Sights of Rome, Chapter 23: S.P.Q.R.).

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