Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sometimes an Obelisk is Just an Obelisk

Sometimes it is difficult not to comment on the phallic nature of political monuments. This is a monument in the Piazza del Quirinale. It is located in front of and facing the Italian Presidential Palace and while it is no Louisiana State Capitol (Huey's Shlong), it does not take a Freud to find the monument suggestive. When viewing such an artifice, a conscientious critic is forced to consider if the resemblance is intentional (that is, if it bears meaning). It seems unlikely, in a city where gore an nudity are carved in stone on every other street corner, that an artist or architect would feel the need to be subtle about such a statement, but there is nothing about Rome that is not planned. Every inch of the city has been purposely produced by a human hand. The whole place is premeditated. For such a detail to go unnoticed seems unlikely. Also note that the picture is taken straight on from the front. This is not a distortion of the thing, this is how it is meant to be viewed.

For the uninitiated, the gentlemen with the horses are supposed to be Castor and Pollux, figures appropriated by Roman mythology from Greek mythology. I'm not sure which one is which, but I don't feel bad about this because they are twins. In fact, they are the twins who are said to be depicted in the constellation Gemini. The obelisk has a cross on the top of it and this likely dates to the time when the Popes used to live in what is now the presidential palace (they were kicked out by Napoleon). It is reminiscent of the obelisk in St. Peter's Square. Although the obelisk and the horse tamers were erected a little over a decade apart, it is hard to ignore the total image they conjure, intentional or not.

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