Searching for statues of relevant women in history in Italian cities is a complex mission. And, if found, they are “few, sexualized and signed 90% by men.” That’s what the Italian association My riconosci (“you recognize me”) says that, after having made A study, has only managed to identify 148 statues of real women – that were not representations of the Virgin Mary, goddesses or allegories such as Justice or Liberty – in public spaces throughout the country.
The concept of “sexualized statues of women” is the subject of debate given the ideals of anthropocentrism and beauty of the Renaissance that mark much of the cultural heritage of Italy. However, Ludovica Piazzi, a researcher and art historian, argues in conversation with elDiario.es that “many of the statues analyzed for the study are from the 20th century or barely twenty years ago, with canons other than the Renaissance, and are represented naked or hypersexualized equally conscientiously. ” Furthermore, “only 5% of feminine works are signed by women; which means that we are represented with the aesthetic and moral prejudices of men”.
In the Villa Borghese park in Rome, designed in the 20th century, there is an area with busts of relevant people from Italian history. There are 229 busts of men but only three of women. The same thing happens in Gianicolo Park, with 226 men and only one woman. Or in Milan, with 125 statues of men in the public space and only one of women. “We don’t have an exact average, but we estimate that there is one statue of one woman for every 100 men,” says Piazzi, who is also a member of Mi riconosci.
“As we have statues of Garibaldi in his old age, we do not have statues of elderly women, they always show us within a canon that is not fulfilled in man, because we are like a consumer object”, says Rosanna Carrieri
Along the same lines, Rossanna Carrieri, an art historian and member of this group, criticizes that the women represented almost always have children in their care. “It is a form of patriarchal representation, we are always related to care or housework. We cannot be represented only as women, it seems that it is too much,” he says. As an international example of this, he points to the statue of Diana of Wales, who died in 1997, represented alongside her children.
Carrieri also criticizes the form of representation regarding the age of women. “As we have statues of Garibaldi in his old age, we do not have statues of old women, they always show us within a canon that is not fulfilled in man, because we are like an object of consumption.”
Although “even virgins are sexualized all over the world”, an example of this representation of women in art are the sculptures of The Lavender of Bologna (from 2000) or the 2003 fountain in Acquapendente, a town in central Italy, dedicated to two murdered journalists, Ilaria Alpi (by the mafia) and Maria Grazia Cutuli in the Afghanistan war in 2001, which are depicted like naked nymphs.
Rosanna Carrieri says it is more important “that I change the way” women are represented. “In the collective imagination, we cannot be denied exclusively motherhood and care. It is a problem that has more to do with how we think of ourselves than a simple problem of statues,” he says.
Another type of art is possible
For Ludovica Piazzi, “the worst” is that many of these works are financed with public money. “It cannot be that an association comes, puts money for a work in the City Council, they give them the project and it is done,” he laments.
Along these lines, Carrieri defends a use of public space “that takes into account the common”, since “the city is for those who live it.” “We must also focus on the management of one’s own cultural assets and deepen a feminist public space,” he adds. “We need more participatory monuments, which are born more from the sensitivity and interests of citizens,” says Piazzi, who underlines the need for women to grow up with references “of all kinds.”
An example they give is the monument to the partisan falls of Villa Spada, dedicated to the 128 anti-fascists of Bologna murdered during the struggle for the liberation of fascism. In this case, college students were also involved. Or the so-called Fontana dei Diritti, in Budrio, near Bologna, in which the children of immigrants have written around the fountain under the supervision of the artist Lorenza Mignoli.