Madama Lucrezia

In a corner of the Piazza di San Marco in Rome stands a larger-than-life but fairly decayed bust known as Madama Lucrezia. It is one of Rome‘s talking statues.

Madama Lucrezia Rome

History and description

Madama Lucrezia Rome
Madama Lucrezia

The bust now known as Madama Lucrezia is actually a statue of the Egyptian Goddess Isis that used to adorn the Iseo Campense. The Iseo Campense was a temple dedicated to Isis and Serapis near the Pantheon.

Its original position was in front of Saint Mark’s Basilica. The statue was moved to its current location, further to the left, around the 16th century by Cardinal Lorenzo Cybo.

Madama Lucrezia was part of a group of statues used by the population to mock the ecclesiastical rulers of the time.

Madama Lucrezia Rome
Madama Lucrezia

During the annual Ballo dei Poveretti, or “Dance of the Poor”, on May 1, the crippled and the hunchbacked as well as the elderly used to come and dance in front of the statue, to great amusement of better-off Romans who were there to watch. For the occasion Madama Lucrezia got to wear necklaces of garlic, onions and red peppers.

It is not certain where the name Lucrezia derives from. According to one theory, the statue was named after the wife of one Giacomo dei Piccini, who owned a number of buildings in the Piazza San Marco. A second possibility is that it was named for Lucrezia D’Alagno, a friend of Pope Paul II.

Talking statues

The “talking statues” were known together as the Congresso degli Arguti. The other “mocking statues” were Pasquino, the Abbot Luigi, Marforio, the “Baboon” and the “Porter” (Facchino).

Statues and obelisks from the Iseo Campense

Madama Lucrezia is not the only statue in Rome to come from the Iseo Campense. The “marble foot” in Via PiĆ© di Marmo is probably from the same statue. Both the obelisk in front of the Pantheon and the one on Bernini’s elephant and the Dogali Obelisk were originally at the same temple. Another obelisk would even eventually end up in the Boboli Garden in Florence. The statue of the Nile and the huge Pigna (“pine cone”) in the Vatican Museums also used to grace the Iseo Campense.

Madama Lucrezia, Rome

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