Controversial Pope John Paul statue in the Piazza gets a facelift

After complaints in the Piazza and in the media, the Vatican’s stated “disappointment” and a Commission’s recommendation, Oliviero Rainaldi’s controversial statue of Pope John Paul the II sees the light of day again, fixed… with new face and a new patina.

When it was unveiled more than a year ago, the statue – a rather interesting take on a religious work – was greeted by an angry mob of locals, and visitors, who complained of a lack of resemblance to the beloved Wojitila – and worse yet, with an apparent resemblance to either Batman or worse yet, Mussolini. All the complaints and controversy led Rome’s Mayor to, of course, … institute a Commission to study the matter. And study it they did: “there are obvious changes in the coloring,” “we see apparent fissures in the bronze,” and there’s a “deterioration of the patina… ” These were among the flaws found – the artist was eventually asked politely to “finish” his sculpture, to adjust the lineaments of the face, to fix the cloak, raise the pedestal and to change the inclination of the whole piece. And now, nearly a year later, one of Rome’s – and Italy’s most pressing problems (sarcasm!) has been finally resolved. The artist was even quoted as saying “the criticism was useful;” we don’t know if he is being diplomatic or what, in any case the “popolo” … the people, seem appeased and anyway, it seems that the bulk of the blame was given to the foundry that produced the work.

The whole catastrophe has brought many issues to the light – a little like a mini art-history course, where we look at the power of the statue in the Piazza to inspire and provoke… and discuss wether its central location demands that it be more realistic than not…  and to how much should the critiques of the passers by be listened to, and given weight to?

We actually liked the statue (the “before” version) … and think it was, and still is a bold sculptural form and the product of a graphic vision – it could have been much worse, really: more stupidly realistic, more anecdotal, banal, and generally cheezy-er. It even appears – given the non-stop media interest – that the statue has succeeded in being seen… and has become the destination that statues in the Piazza aspire to become.

Visit the artist’s website here.

The “before photo” at left is from here, and the “after photo” at right is from an Artribune article here.

We encourage you to let us know what you think! Fateci sapere cosa ne pensate!

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