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During a night out with some of my housemates, involving some lovely cocktails, I stumbled upon the rather strange statue of Pasquino.

Pasquino is in the tiny Piazza Pasquino, a rather grubby statue covered with tatty bits of paper.

This is Rome’s most famous ‘talking statue’.

According to Wikipedia, Pasquino or Pasquin (Latin: Pasquillus) is the name used by Romans to describe this battered Hellenistic-style statue dating to the 3rd century BC, which was unearthed in the Parione district of Rome in the 15th century.

The statue’s fame dates to the early 16th century, when Cardinal Oliviero Carafa draped the marble torso of the statue in a toga and decorated it with Latin epigrams on the occasion of Saint Mark‘s Day. From this incident are derived the English-language terms “pasquinade” and “pasquil”, which refer to an anonymous lampoon in verse or prose.[1]

The Cardinal’s actions led to a custom of criticising the pope or his government by the writing of satirical poems in broad Roman dialect – called “pasquinades” from the Italian “pasquinate”. Thus Pasquino became the first “talking statue” of Rome.[2]

He spoke out about the people’s dissatisfaction, denounced injustice, and assaulted misgovernment by members of the Church.

Etymological origins

The origin of the name, “Pasquino”, remains obscure. By the mid-sixteenth century it was reported that the name “Pasquino” derived from a nearby tailor who was renowned for his wit and intellect;[3] speculation had it that his legacy was carried on through the statue, in “the honor and everlasting remembrance of the poor tailor”.[4]

Tradition of wit

Before long, other statues appeared on the scene, forming a kind of public salon or academy, the “Congress of the Wits” (Congresso degli Arguti), with Pasquino always the leader, and the sculptures that Romans called Marphurius, Abbot Luigi, Il Facchino, Madama Lucrezia, and Il Babbuino as his outspoken colleagues.[5] The cartelli on which the epigrams were written were quickly passed around, and copies were made,[6] too numerous to suppress. These poems were collected and published annually by the Roman printer Giacomo Mazzocchi as early as 1509, as Carmina apposita Pasquino, and became well known all over Europe. As they became more pointed, the place of publication of Pasquillorum Tomi Duo[7] (1544) was shifted to Basel, less squarely under papal control, disguised on the titlepage as Eleutheropolis, “freedom city”.[8]

The lampooning tradition was ancient among Romans. For a first century versified lampoon, see Domus Aurea.

Pasquinade is sometimes misidentified, appearing among synonyms of parody at WordNet. Compare also the equally unrelated pastiche.

Cultural legacy

Pasquin is the name of a play by Henry Fielding from 1736. It was a pasquinade in that it was an explicit and personalised attack on Robert Walpole and his supporters. It is one of the plays that triggered the Theatrical Licensing Act of 1737.

The Pasquinade is a small, grassroots magazine of parody and satire started in the mid-1990s. The brainchild of Dallas Shelby, a college journalism student with a bent for satire and a love of pop culture. In 2003, the organization developed its own film production company, Pasquinade Films.

Today the custom of speaking out through messages on Pasquino continues.

See also


  1. ^ In verse, the pasquinade finds a classical source in the epigrams of Martial: John W. Spaeth, Jr., “Martial and the Pasquinade” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association 70 (1939:242-255).
  2. ^ The actual identification of the sculptural subject was made in the eighteenth century by the antiquarian Ennio Quirino Visconti, who identified it as the torso of Menelaus supporting the dying Patroclus; the more famous of two Medici versions of this Menelaus supporting the body of Patroclus is in the Loggia dei Lanzi, Florence. The Pasquino is more recently characterized as a Hellenistic sculpture of the third century BCE, or a Roman copy; early discussion was summarised in B. Schweitzer and F. Hackenbeil, Das Original der sogennanten Pasquino-Gruppe (Leipzig: Hirtzl) 1936; the modern opinion is from Helbig.
  3. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=Cq5PAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA275&dq=Pasquino+tailor&hl=en&ei=h6xHTM-ROYKC8gbhovmeBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Pasquino%20tailor&f=false
  4. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=Cq5PAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA275&dq=Pasquino+tailor&hl=en&ei=h6xHTM-ROYKC8gbhovmeBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Pasquino%20tailor&f=false
  5. ^ Ponti 1927; Enciclopedia Italiana, s.v. “Pasquino e Pasquinate”.
  6. ^ Copies in private daybooks have preserved some that were too scurrilous to print.
  7. ^ “Two volumes of Pasquinades”.
  8. ^ Spaeth 1939:245, identifies the editor as the humanist-turned-Protestant Caelius Secundus Curio, an exile and professor of oratory at Basel, whose own Pasquilli Ecstatici had appeared about 1541 and was quickly translated into Italian, French and German.