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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hamlet in the Weeds: Rediscovering Italian Sculptor Amleto Cataldi

"The wrestlers" in Viale Unione Sovietica - that's the
Olympic Village apartments in back
Stumbling across underappreciated art is always fun, per RST.  We almost literally stumbled across Amleto ("Hamlet" in English) Cataldi's gorgeous "athletes" because they are now strewn in odd and spread out places in the vicinity of the 1960s Olympic Village in the Flaminio quarter of Rome - itself a burgeoning art scene (the new Hadid MAXXI and Piano's Parco della Musica are nearby - all of these are on the itineraries in our new book: Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler; more information below).

At first, a single sculpture was all we knew existed.  A friend and I ran into it when we were walking back from the "supermercato" to our not-so-close apartment one day.  The idea of sculptures of athletes in what was the Olympic Village for the competitors in the 1960 Olympics made sense.  But these sculptures seemed of an earlier period, and so they are.

"The runners" in 2008 before
the most recent restoration
"The runners" in 2012, after restoration - find them at the
SE corner of XVII Olimpiade and via Germania
(1/2 block east of  Corso Francia)
Tracking them down, much later, we found they originally were commissioned to stand on 4 large columns when, in 1927, architect Marcello Piacentini, one of Fascism's great architects, spruced up the 1911 Flaminio Stadium.  You may be able to spot them towards the end of Vittorio DeSica's neorealist masterpiece, The Bicycle Thief, which features a soccer match crowd letting out at that stadium.  Four of Cataldi's sculptures were the artistic hallmarks of the main entrance to the stadium.  But the stadium was torn down in 1957 to make way for the new Olympic facilities (including a new Flaminio stadium and the Palazetto dello Sport - which Bill has waxed eloquent about in a prior post).  But the statues didn't make an easy trip to Olympic Village. They apparently were carelessly toppled in 1957, damaged, and consigned to warehouses.  In the 1960s, after the Olympics were over, a journalist living in the Olympic Village tracked them down and had them repaired and installed in various grassy areas near and around the Village.  They then were not taken care of and apparently his daughter began a campaign to have them restored once again.  Sometimes when we've seen them, they simply stand amidst weeds.  They did look better the last time we saw some of them.  But there still are no plaques marking the sculptor or any history.  So just go find them and enjoy them.  And, speaking of finding them.  We located two (see photo captions).  We'd be happy for someone to locate the other two.

Saluting the "Tax Man"
We also didn't know at the time we stumbled across these fine giant athletes that the same architect, Cataldi, designed and sculpted the statues on the monument (right) on one of RST's itineraries, and featured in the book.  What we call there a "monument to the tax man" - a monument to the fallen of the Guardia della Finanza, is in Largo  XXI Aprile near Piazza Bologna.  That monument was unveiled in December 1930 (by Il Duce himself), shortly after Cataldi's death.

A "ciociara" type of sculpture by
Cataldi similar to the one that
is the subject of a repatriation
attempt by some Italians
Cataldi is described by some as a forgotten sculptor of the early 20th century.  Most Romans seem to know nothing about his public sculptures, and he was primarily a sculptor of public monuments, in large part monuments commemorating World War I dead. But his sculptures seem to fetch high prices at auction, even today.  One Italian was making an appeal that a sculpture of Cataldi's, set for auction in New York City, was such a national treasure that it should be returned to Italy.

Because his art nouveau lines appeal to us, we will continue our search for Cataldi's sculptures, even though, forgotten as they are, we still can't afford to take one home with us.

Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious features the "garden" suburb of Garbatella; the 20th-century suburb of EUR, designed by the Fascists; the 21st-century music and art center of Flaminio (as noted above), along with Mussolini's Foro Italico, also the site of the 1960 summer Olympics; and a stairways walk in classic Trastevere. 

This 4-walk book is available in all print and eBook formats The eBook is $1.99 through and all other eBook sellers.  See the various formats at

Modern Rome: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler
 now is also available in print, at, Barnes and Noble, independent bookstores,  and other retailers; retail price $5.99.

1 comment:

Al Covey said...

There is a stztue by sculptor Hamlet Cataldi in the the Piazzale Italy in Foggia. Il Monumento dei Caduti (Monument to the Fallen) by the sculptor Hamlet Cataldi was dedicated on 4 June 1929.