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Forthcoming | VISTAS-New Scholarship on Sculpture
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Riemenschneider in Situ

Eds. Katherine Morris Boivin (Associate Professor, Bard College) and Gregory Bryda (Assistant Professor, Barnard College)

Riemenschneider in Situ presents the newest research on the work of one of the most famous late medieval and early Renaissance sculptors, Tilman Riemenschneider. Moving beyond questions of style, date, and workshop practice, this volume investigates the sculptor’s programs across the south German region of Franconia that survive in situ, within the particular contexts for which they were designed and in which they were originally experienced. In shifting the focus from fragmentary pieces in museum collections to extant installations in their original church settings, the volume contributes to a wave of scholarship interested in reanimating medieval artistic ensembles by considering them as complex visual environments. Together, the authors—conservators, museum professionals, and art historians—provide an essential and overdue study of Riemenschneider’s best-preserved pieces, while also making an important, collaborative addition to the broader discipline of pre-modern art history.


Taste and the Antique: The Lure of Classical Sculpture 1500-1900, Revised Edition

A new edition of this well-known reference book written by Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, now revised and extended by Adriano Aymonino and Eloisa Dodero and with new high resolution photography of every item catalogued.

Bold text in the entries below indicate additions to the original text, showing the extent of to which the second edition has been augmented:


  1. The Marble Faun[1]



Height: 1.705 m

Also known as: Faun;[2] The Faun of Praxiteles[3]

Literature: Praxitèle 2007, pp. 260-2, no. 60 (J.-L. Martinez); Musei Capitolini 2010-18, I, pp. 446-51, no. 5 (M. Mattei); Dodero2017-18, pp. 339-40, no. W. 7; Arata forthcoming, no. 5; Census ID 159603


The Faun is first recorded in the 1572 inventory of Villa d’Este at Tivoli.[4] Its history prior to this date is obscure: it could possibly be identified with a ‘Fauno antico’ that Ippolito d’Este bought in 1568 from the abbot of San Sebastiano through the mediation of Vincenzo Stampa and that was restored by the sculptors Pierre de la Motte and Gillis Van de Vliete.[5] An inscription on the base records that it was given to the Capitoline Museum by Pope Benedict XIV in 1753. It is thus one of the thirteen statues bought by the Pope in that year from the Villa d’Este.[6] Restored by Bartolomeo Cavaceppi in 1754,[7] the statue was illustrated in Bottari’s catalogue of the museum published in 1755[8] and displayed in the Salone of the Palazzo Nuovo.[9] In 1796, on the verge of the French occupation, Ennio Quirino Visconti, then director of the Capitoline Museum, commissioned a plaster cast of the statue from Michele Crescini.[10]This replaced the original when, in 1797, the Faun was ceded to the French under the terms of the Treaty of Tolentino;[11] the statue reached Paris in the triumphal procession of July 1798.[12] It was displayed in the Musée Central des Arts from its inauguration on 9 November 1800.[13] It was removed in October 1815,[14] arrived back in Rome in the first half of 1816, and during the course of the year it was returned to the newly reorganised Capitoline Museum;[15] since then it has been placed in the Sala del Galata.

The relative lack of interest shown in the Faunbefore it entered the Capitoline Museum in 1753 might be explained with the fact that the statue was relegated in the Villa d’Este at Tivoli.[16] There are a number of bronze statuettes of Fauns dated between the sixteenth and the seventeenth century which may be versions of the Faun mentioned here but if so the artist felt free to modify the model more than we would expect.[17] In the middle years of the seventeenth century a rather similar Faun in the Giustiniani collection (now in the Museo Torlonia)[18] had been very highly admired, being engraved as ‘Faunus meditans’ in Perrier’s anthology of the most famous statues in Rome.[19] Another Faun of the same sculptural type, once in the Caetani Palace on the Corso in Rome and now in the Munich Glyptothek,[20] was cast in bronze for Philip IV of Spain by Cesare Sebastiani and Giovanni Pietro del Duca who were working on behalf of Velázquez.[21]

The present Faun did not at first attract much attention even when it could be seen in the Capitoline Museum. Bottari (who catalogued the sculptures there) made virtually no comment, and, although Winckelmann probably had it in mind when, during the course of a discussion on fauns and satyrs in ancient art, he pointed out that the fact that ‘there are in Rome more than thirty statues, similar to each other in pose and attitude, of a young Satyr probably means that these are all copies of the famous Satyr of Praxiteles’,[22] we cannot be quite sure for – as Heyne rather cuttingly noted[23]–‘he does not say what is the pose or attitude in question’. It is, in any case, significant that Winckelmann did not bother to single out the Capitoline Faun in his published writings, and when commenting on it in private he noted that it was not more beautiful than the similar Giustiniani Faun[24]–  a view with which some modern scholars have concurred.[25]

Visconti agreed that Winckelmann’s hypothesis was ‘highly probable’[26] and he much admired the statue.[27] Lalande, on the other hand, found it mediocre.[28] In these circumstances it is perhaps surprising that the French should have taken it for the Musée and the fact that they called it ‘Le Faune jouant de la flûte’ in their first list of demands made in 1796[29] before their commissioners had reached Rome suggests that they were not quite clear about its appearance. The statue did make an impression on one great artist in France, however. The young Ingres used it as a model for his Les Ambassadeurs d’Agamemnon, the oil on canvas which he presented to the Academie des Beaux-Arts in 1801 for the Grand Prix de Rome.[30] Despite this enthusiasm on the part of an artist it may be that the intrinsic beauty of the statue was less significant than the idea that it might reflect the creation of a great name. Indeed, early in the nineteenth century an attribution to Praxiteles himself came to be more and more accepted – ‘I know not on what authority’, commented Mrs. Jameson after her visit to Rome in 1821-2.[31] With the attribution came growing popularity,[32] but its real celebrity was inspired by other considerations. On 22 April 1858 Nathaniel Hawthorne became ‘sensible of a peculiar charm in it: a sylvan beauty and homeliness, friendly and wild at once…This race of fauns was the most delightful of all that antiquity imagined. It seems to me that a story, with all sorts of fun and pathos in it, might be contrived on the idea of their species having become intermingled with the human race; a family with the faun blood in them having prolonged itself from the classic era till our own days.’[33] The Marble Faun was published in 1860 and the fame of this statue soon became world-wide, as the theme of the novel was taken up (in ways that would have surprised Hawthorne) by generations of writers, painters and photographers who flocked to Italy to admire the beauty of uninhibited pagan youths. As early as 1871 Augustus Hare quoted from Hawthorne’s description of the Faun of Praxiteles which he ranked with the Gladiator and the Antinous as one of the three gems of the Capitoline collection,[34] thus reflecting and further promoting the enthusiasm with which this statue was regarded by travellers. The wide popularity of the Faunis reflected in the numerous nineteenth-century marble copies in British country houses, such as the sculpture now in the garden of Cliveden, Buckinghamshire.[35] A plaster cast of the statue is listed in the 1864 sale catalogue of the moulds of the Louvre.[36]

During the excavations carried out by Napoleon III on the Palatine, a torso was found (now in the Louvre) which for a brief period enjoyed great fame as the original on which were supposed to have been based all the many known versions of this figure.[37]

The Capitoline Faun was catalogued in Helbig as a Hadrianic copy of a Greek statue of the time of Praxiteles without any necessary connection with the artist himself.[38] However, the high number of replicas (more than one hundred found in particular in Rome and Italy) testifies to the popularity of the original, which is now unanimously referred to Praxiteles’ mature years (340-330 B.C.).[39] On the other hand, the identification of the prototype is still controversial and scholars debate over three candidates: the “celebrated” (periboetos)satyr in bronze seen by Pliny in Rome, which was part of a sculptural group with Drunkenness;[40] a statue in Parian marble seen by Pausanias in the sanctuary of Dionysos at Megara in Greece;[41] a bronze statue, again mentioned by Pausanias, as once set up in the street of the Tripodes in Athens.[42]

Restorations: Bartolomeo Cavaceppi was responsible for the extensive restoration of the statue soon after its acquisition for the Capitoline Museum in 1753. The legs, which were broken in three points, were recomposed; the sculptor created both the arms and the base. Cavaceppi’s additions also include the nose, two locks of hair above the left ear, the right arm with the flute, the left arm, three fingers of the left foot, and several folds of the drapery.[43]

[1]After the title of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of 1860.

[2]Del Re 1611, p. 27.

[3]Winckelmann (ed. Fea) 1783-4, I, p. 292; Winckelmann 2002, p. 713 (ed. 1776).

[4]Ashby 1908, pp. 248, 255 (now reissued in Ferruti 2009, pp. 256, 270); Stuart Jones 1912, pp. 350-1; Arata forthcoming. For the sculpture collection of Ippolito II d’Este see in particular Ferruti 2009; Ferruti 2013. For Villa d’Este see Occhipinti 2009.

[5]Arata forthcoming.

[6]Ashby 1908, p. 235 (now reissued in Ferruti 2009, p. 228); Arata 2013, p. 128; Arata 2016, pp. 139-45; Arata forthcoming.

[7]  Barberini 1994, pp. 119-20; Arata 2013, p. 129. Either the Capitoline Faunor another replica in the Villa Albani served as model for Cavaceppi’s clay reduction in the collection of the Prince of Anhalt-Dessau in Wörlitz, see Römische Antikensammlungen 1998, pp. 129-30, no. IV.20 (J.J. Petersen).

[8][Bottari] 1755,pp. 70-2, plate XXXII.

[9]Museo Capitolino 1775, p. 57; Arata 2013, p. 137.

[10]Arata 2009, pp. 118, 150 (no. 249).

[11]Montaiglon (Correspondance) 1887-1912, XVI, pp. 464, 498; Arata 2016, p. 204.

[12]Blumer 1934, pp. 241-9.

[13]Notice, An IX (1800), pp. 1-2; Martinez 2004b, p. 77, no. 0106.

[14]Saunier 1902, p. 149.

[15]Either in the consignment of statues which arrived on 4 January (Diario di Roma, 6 January 1816) or among those which had reached Civitavecchia from Antwerp by 19 June on H.M.S.  Abundance (ibid., 19 June 1816); Stuart Jones 1912, p. 8; Arata 2016, p. 234.

[16]Even the provenance of the statue was debated in the eighteenth century and generated much confusion: Carlo Fea said that it was found on the Aventine in 1749, see Fea 1790, p. clxiv, note e. The cataloguers of the Musée Central des Arts claimed that it had been excavated in 1701 at Lanuvium (Civita Lavinia) where Marcus Aurelius had owned a country house, see Notice, An XI (1800), p. 2.

[17]Natur und Antike 1985, p. 438, no. 135. For a bronze statuette in Vienna, Kunsthistorisches Museum, see Planiscig 1924, no. 242; for a statuette sold at Sotheby’s London in 1969, see Census ID 58425.

[18]Helbig 1963-72, IV, p. 257, no. 3286 (H. von Steuben); Praxitèles 2007, pp. 258-62, no. 60 (J.-L. Martinez); MORA, s.v. Fauno Giustiniani (L. Fatticcioni). For a list of similar statues known in sixteenth-century Rome see Bober and Rubinstein 2010, pp. 119-20, no. 72.

[19]Perrier 1638, plate 45; Laveissière 2011, pp. 172-3, no. 45; Di Cosmo and Fatticcioni 2012, pp. 426-7, plate 45. For a mid-seventeenth-century bronze reduction see Bronzes de la couronne 1999, p. 85, no. 45.

[20]Vierneisel-Schlörb 1979, pp. 354-63, plates 165-79.

[21]Negrete Plano 2008; Velázquez 2008, pp. 455-8, nos 54-5 (A. Negrete Plano). The Faun copied for Philip IV had been previously identified with the Giustiniani/Torlonia statue rather than the Caetani’s, seeHarris, E. 1960, pp. 119-20, plate V; Haskell and Penny 1981, p. 210.

[22]Winckelmann (ed. Fea) 1783-4, I, p. 292 (alluding to Pliny, XXXIV, 69); Winckelmann 2002, p. 713 (ed. 1776).

[23]Heyne (Faunes) 1796, pp. 75-6, note 1.

[24]Winckelmann (Briefe) 1952-7, IV, p. 23.

[25]Rizzo 1932, p. 34.

[26]Visconti (Monumenti Borghesiani), plate XXI, no. 3.

[27]Visconti (Museo Pio-Clementino), II, plate XXX.

[28]Lalande 1878-8, IV, p. 183.

[29]Montaiglon (Correspondance) 1887-1912, XVI, p. 464.

[30]Ingres & l’antique 2006, p. 399, no. 176; Praxitèle2007, p. 261. In 1841 the artist also sent a plaster cast of the statue to Paris, seeIngres & l’antique 2006, p. 399, no. 175 (J.-L. Martinez); Praxitèle2007, p. 260, fig. 171. Other plaster casts were destined to the Galerie Véro-Dodat in Paris and the west façade of the Cour Carrée.

[31][Mrs. Jameson] 1826, p. 147.

[32]See for instance thebronze reductions produced by Barbedienne from 1845, Rionnet 2016, p. 212, no. 32.

[33]Hawthorne 1883, pp. 172-3; on Hawthorne’s novel see Budick 2004.

[34]Hare 1871, I, p. 109.

[35]National Trust, inv. no. 766245.

[36]Catalogue des plâtres 1864, p. 9.

[37]Brunn 1898-1906, II, pp. 392ff.; Praxitèle 2007, pp. 262-4, no. 61 (J.-L. Martinez). The Faun was found in 1864 close to the peristyle of the Domus Flavia, see Tomei 1999, p. 360, fig. 267.

[38]Helbig 1963-72, II, pp. 234-6, no. 1429 (H. von Steuben). The Hadrianic chronology is still accepted inPraxitèle 2007, p. 262.

[39]For a discussion see Martinez 2007b; for a complete list of replicas see Gercke 1968, pp. xxx; Martinez 2007b, pp. 258-9; Corso 2010, pp. 123-32, note 221.

[40]Pliny, XXXIV, 69; see Corso 2010, pp. 42-69, no. 29. This identification was already suggested by Winckelmann. It is rejected in Martinez 2007b, p. 241.

[41]Pausania, I, 43, 5; see Martinez 2007a, p. 34, no. 9; Martinez 2007b, pp. 238, 241-8. This identification, however, is not accepted in Corso 2013, pp. 83-4, no. 39.

[42]Pausania, I, 20, 1; see Martinez 2007a, p. 34, no. 8, where this opinion is challenged.

[43]Barberini 1994, pp. 119-20.



  1. Marcus Aurelius[1]


Gilded Bronze

Height: 4.24 m; Width: 3.87 m

Also known as: Constantine;[2] Theodoric;[3] Marcus;[4] Quintus Quirinus;[5]‘armiger’[6]or ‘il gran Villano’;[7] Septimius Severus;[8] Commodus;[9] Traianus;[10]‘pacificator’;[11] Antoninus Pius;[12] Aurelianus;[13] Lucius Verus;[14] Hadrian;[15] Metellus.[16]

Literature: Knauer 1968; Frugoni 1984, pp. 32-70; Fittschen and Zanker 1985, pp. 72-4, no. 67; Gramaccini 1985; Melucco Vaccaro and Mura Sommella 1989; De Lachenal 1990a and 1990b; Mura Sommella and Parisi Presicce 1997; Bober and Rubinstein 2010, pp. 223-5, no. 176; Di Cosmo and Fatticcioni 2012, pp. 337-42, nos 11-12; Census ID 151697


The group is first mentioned in 966during the pontificate of John XIII (965-972) in the Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Romanae, as ‘caballus Constantini’, as a place where Papal authority and justice was administered.[17] In 985 the same source explicitly mentions it on the Lateran square.[18] Apart from the groups of Alexander and Bucephalus,this was the most important statue to survive unburied from antiquity. It had probably been moved close to the Pope’s palace on the Lateran – from an unknown original ancient location[19]– during the second half of the eighth century, at the time of the formulation of the ‘Donation of Constantine’, and in the context of the efforts of the Church to establish itself as the rightful successor of Roman imperial authority. It was presumably seen there by Charlemagne during his visits to Rome in 774 or in 800, who then replicated at Aachen the powerful symbolic association between the imperial equestrian statue and palatium.[20]

In 1187 the Pope Clement III when aggrandising the Lateran Palace ‘also caused a bronze horse to be made’,[21] a clearly inaccurate statement which must, however, refer either to a restoration of the Marcus Aurelius, or to a new display of the statue within the Lateran Square.[22] From this time it was probably supported on columns like the other antique sculptures in the area,[23] and what are likely to be the remains of these may be seen in a drawing by Heemskerk who was in Rome between 1532 and 1537.[24] The display also included two black basalt Egyptian lions placed in front of the statue which, on special occasions, spouted water and wine in an antique tub, probably made of porphyry, located underneath.[25] These lions were transferred  to the Capitol in 1538 with the Marcus Aureliusand in 1582 placed at the bottom of the monumental staircase, where they still remain.[26]

In 1452, the statue was seen lying on the ground but was soon re-erected;[27] between 1466 and 1468 Pope Paul II had the statue restored[28] and in 1473-4 Pope Sixtus IV arranged for it to be placed on an inscribed marble base.[29] Although Alexander VI had already planned to transfer the statue to the Capitol in 1498,[30] it was only in 1538 that Pope Paul III managed to put into effect his plan of the previous year and had it transferred there.[31] By 1538-40 Michelangelo (who used it as the focal point around which he planned the whole piazza)[32] had already designed for it a new marble base (fashioned from part of an entablature from Trajan’s Forum),[33] for this appears in a drawing made by Francisco de Hollanda at that date.[34] Nevertheless the actual construction of the base, or its completion, seems to have been carried out later, certainly before 1564.[35] Nothing designed by Michelangelo has been more influential, and hundreds of plinths for equestrian statues erected thereafter have imitated its form, which was also adapted for plinths and pedestal for the antique statues within the Capitoline collection during the eighteenth century.

After having withstood the elements for almost two thousand years, on 8 January 1981 the statue was removed from its location at the centre of the Capitoline square to be restored.[36] Returned to a climatized room on the ground floor of the Palazzo Nuovo of the Musei Capitolini on 11 April 1990, from 21 December 2005 it has been relocated permanently to the Esedra del Marco Aurelio in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, while a copy in bronze has taken the place of the original in the square.[37]

Together with the Wolf (no. 93) the Marcus Aureliusconstituted the most powerful symbol of Rome throughout the centuries,[38] and during the Middle Ages it attracted a number of fanciful legends and a wide variety of names.[39] By far the most important of these was that of Constantine, for – as Carlo Fea pointed out in 1784[40]– it was probably due to this association with Christianity that it survived virtually intact after the downfall of paganism and the collapse of the Western Empire – the only among the many bronze equestrian statues in ancient Rome.[41] However, by the mid-twelfth century the name of Constantine was repeatedly refuted[42] (though it lingered on for several hundred years more),[43] and the statue was identified, probably for political reasons,with various heroes of the ancient Roman Republic.[44] These were either Marcus Curtius, whose valour in plunging into a chasm in order to save the State had been celebrated by Livy,[45] or a warrior (armiger),[46] later identified as a heroic peasant (villano),[47] whose deeds were variously recorded but who was credited with having captured a foreign king besieging Rome ‘during the time of the consuls and senators’. For this he had been rewarded with the equestrian statue which he had asked for. It showed him with his arm outstretched to seize the king while a cuckoo sat on the horse’s head – this was a misinterpretation of the foretop of the horse’s mane – because that bird’s cry had signalled the whereabouts of the king, while the king himself, reduced to the size of a dwarf and his hands tied to the back, lay underfoot (as, no doubt, had some bound barbarian captive when the statue was in its original state).[48] Magister Gregorious, an English visitor to Rome between the late twelfth and the early thirteenth centuries,explained that one or other of these stories (with some variations) was believed by the cardinals and officials of the Curia, while pilgrims thought that the figure was Theodoric and the people clung to the name of Constantine.[49 ]In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries various emperors were proposed: Septimius Severus,[50] Lucius Verus,[51] Antoninus Pius,[52] and Hadrian[53] among them. The humanist Bartolomeo Platina, who became librarian to Sixtus IV, is credited with having been the first to suggest Marcus Aurelius,[54] but it was not until about 1600 that this became almost universally accepted.[55]

Although the equestrian group certainly served as inspiration for similar freely derived figures throughout the Middle ages[56]– such as the celebrated bronze statuette of Charlemagne or Charles the Bald today at the Louvre – it is only in the Early Renaissance that explicit replicas of the Marcus Aureliusstart to appear.  Mid-fifteenth-century admiration for this sculpture is shown by Filarete’s bronze statuette (now in Dresden) – the earliest Renaissance reproduction of an antique and one that was closely, though not precisely, based on the original. It was dedicated to Piero de’ Medici in 1465, but it had been executed between 1440-45,[57] long before Sixtus IV’s new installation and at a time when (so it came to be believed in the late sixteenth century)[58] the statue was totally neglected. Pier Jacopo Alari Bonacolsi, called Antico, made another bronze statuette by 1496,[59] and many others were produced by both Italian and Northern sculptors between the sixteenth and the seventeenth centuries.[60] The Marcus Aureliuswas also drawn and engraved from every angle more than any other work of antiquity (separately as well as in collections of prints).[61] When, against the advice of Michelangelo who thought that ‘it looked better where it was’,[62] it was taken to the Capitol, the canons of the Lateran chapter protested bitterly and for nearly a century efforts were made to retrieve it.[63]

As in the Renaissance so in the eighteenth century small copies were frequent – in bronze,[64] in plaster,[65] on cameos and intaglios,[66] while the Marcus Aureliusbecame omnipresent in the capricci by Giovanni Paolo Panini[67] and in many by Hubert Robert.[68] Copies continued to be produced also during the nineteenth century. One in ormolu, skilfully incorporating the Marcus Aurelius Reliefsin its base (no. 56), was produced by Giuseppe Boschi in 1820,[69] while another one in marble, more than a meter in height, was produced in Rome with an aphorism on its socle referring to the philosophic nature of the great emperor: ‘I popoli saranno felici quando avranno dei filosofi per re, o che i loro re saranno dei filosofi’.[70]

Much more important were the large-scale versions. A plaster cast was probably made by Primaticcio for François Ier and sent to Fontainebleau,[71] and another – laboriously transported from Rome – was the chief feature of Leone Leoni’s house in Milan built in 1565-7.[72] This cast, displayed on four columns in the courtyard, provided the central theme of the house programme, which was  wholly dedicated to Marcus Aurelius: it presided metaphorically over the captives decorating the façade, the famous ‘Omenoni’, which were intended to represent the five barbaric populations subjugated by the emperor.[73] One of the very first tasks of the French Academy in Rome was to have a mould taken from the statue and eventually this was sent to Paris in eighteen packing cases:[74] it may have been from this that a cast was made which, in Perrault’s time, was standing in the Palais Royal.[75] It also seems likely that a full-scale lead replica of the Marcus Aureliushad by then already been erected on a wooden triumphal arch in the gardens which Isaac de Caus designed at Wilton for the fourth Earl of Pembroke and it is perhaps just possible to identify the statue in a painting of the gardens which dates from about 1700; it can certainly be seen there in drawings of twenty years later.[76] In 1758 this arch was replaced by a grander one in stone built by Sir William Chambers and in 1801 James Wyatt re-erected it (with the Marcus Aurelius) to make a triumphal entry to the north forecourt.[77] A collection of engravings of the antiquities at Wilton also illustrated ‘the first Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius which occasioned the Sculptor to be Employed in casting the Great One on a different Horse at the Capitol’.[78] The claim made for this much-restored relief of a barbarian came to the notice of Winckelmann and aroused his ridicule.[79] The fame of the statue persisted well into the twentieth century – one of the few ancient sculptures to hold this privilege – when at least two full scale bronze replicas were produced by Roman and Florentine foundries for the American market.[80]

Busts of the emperor alone were equally successful. A full-size replica in bronze of the head, mounted on an antique porphyry bust, was produced in the seventeenth century for Villa Ludovisi.[81] In the following century Cavaceppi realised a reduced version in terracotta, with a greenish finish to imitate bronze;[82] while plaster casts of the heads of the emperor and of the horse were produced from the nineteenth century onwards and can still be found in Copenhagen, Berlin and – the emperor only – in Göttingen.[83]

Enthusiastic praise of the Marcus Aureliuscan be found in every century, perhaps reaching a peak between the middle of the seventeenth and the early years of the eighteenth.[84] A very similar story was repeated of Michelangelo, of Pietro da Cortona, of Bernini and of Carlo Maratta, each one of whom was supposed to have addressed the statue with the words ‘Move on, then; don’t you know that you are alive?’[85] In 1671 Colbert’s son found it ‘one of the most beautiful statues in Rome’;[86] in the next generation Addison thought that it was one of ‘the Four finest Figures perhaps that are now Extant’,[87] while Caylus noted that it was ‘magnificent … it gives me infinite pleasure’.[88] Yet there was always an undercurrent of criticism which needed only a small stimulus to bring it out into the open. As early as 1549 Doni thought that, though by ‘a most excellent master’, the very limitations of sculpture (as opposed to drawing) were responsible for the horse’s belly being swollen in relation to the rest of its anatomy;[89] and as soon as the Balbus (no. 12) was excavated in 1746 claims were made that it was superior to the Marcus Aurelius. In 1764 Gibbon wrote that ‘Horse connoisseurs admire the animal: others criticise it.’[90]

Before he came to Rome Winckelmann accepted the view, already proposed by Abbé Du Bos,[91] that the ancients had been unfamiliar with the nobler breeds of horses (especially English ones) and that this accounted for some limitation in the statue.[92] Later he changed his mind about the quality of horses in antiquity, but his theories about the necessary decline of art in Imperial times inhibited him from expressing enthusiasm for the statue, or even giving it any serious consideration at all.[93] Dupaty thought highly of the Marcus Aureliusbut acknowledged that the horse was short, heavy and thick;[94] while early in the nineteenth century Joseph Forsyth could write that ‘the great statue of Marcus Aurelius, or rather of his horse, which was once the idol of Rome, is now a subject of contention. Some critics find the proportion of the animal false, and his attitude impossible. One compares his head to an owl’s; another his belly to a cow’s …’[95] Ironically, the comparison of the foretop of the horse’s mane to an owl (rather than, as previously to a cuckoo) had earlier played an important part in promoting the statue’s significance, for some travellers and guidebooks in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had seen in this use of the traditional emblem of Athens evidence that the sculptor must have been a Greek.[96]

No man had played a greater part in stimulating controversy about the quality of the statue than the sculptor Étienne-Maurice Falconet. Resenting criticism of the bronze equestrian monument of Peter the Great which he was creating in St. Petersburg, he began to launch his provocative attack on what he considered to be blind, thoughtless admiration for antique art – and especially for the Marcus Aurelius– in about 1769.[97] He himself had in fact never seen it and his impressions of its appearance were derived partly from the Russian painter Anton Losenko who returned from Rome in that year with a series of very careful drawings after the leading antiquities[98] and partly from a plaster cast which was specially made for him from the one in the French Academy in Rome.[99] Using this evidence (and deriding the claim that the materials out of which a statue was made had any great significance) he criticised the horse for being badly observed, unnatural, ill-proportioned and heavy[100]– and in so doing he aroused much scorn,[101]but (as we have seen) he also inspired much revision of conventional responses.

In one respect, however, Falconet’s own ‘bronze horseman’ was indebted to the Marcus Aurelius– for he went out of his way to insist on his enlightened interpretation of Peter the Great’s mission[102]– and it was the pacifying gesture of Marcus Aurelius which had struck Andrea Fulvio when he wrote about the statue in 1527.[103] Not everyone agreed and in the early nineteenth century the Prussian diplomat and scholar Baron Bunsen was to amuse his children by claiming that what Marcus Aurelius was really saying was ‘Quiet everybody – Rome belongs to me!’ (Zittitutti – Roma è mia).[104] Enthusiastic praise of the statue continued thorough the nineteenth century. In 1869 Henry James wrote emphatically from Rome: ‘Again and again have I taken the measure of that noblest and simplest and sweetest of statues, the kind old Marcus Aurelius at the Capitol. It makes even Roman bronze mild and humane and pathetic’.[105]

Vasari first pointed out the great importance of the Marcus Aureliusfor Andrea Verrocchio,[106] and its influence has been detected in numerous statues and frescoes from the Early Renaissance onwards, though, with the exception of a few adaptations, such influence has usually been more generalised than precise.[107] Faithful in posture and details are Sir Richard Westmacott’s statues of George III in Liverpool and Windsor Great Park:[108] ‘Every spectator’, observed the Gentleman’s Magazine, ‘feels real delight in viewing George the Third in the character of Marcus Aurelius: stretching forth his paternal hand over his people.’[109] Another close variation, explicitly based on the Roman model, is Thorvaldsen’s equestrian statue to Józef Poniatowsky, executed in 1832. Destroyed by the Germans in 1944, and finally re-cast in 1952, it stands today as a potent symbol of Polish national identity in front of the Presidential Palace in Warsaw.[110]

The Marcus Aurelius was catalogued in Helbig as being Roman work contemporary with the Emperor himself (A.D. 161-80).[111] More recent opinions retain this chronology, differing only on the specific dates for the execution of the statue and on its original ancient location.[112]The emperor is shown wearing a short tunic, a military cloak and with his right hand extended in a gesture of adlocutio, addressing the troops.

Restorations: in the second half of the fifteenth century the statue was restored twice, by Cristoforo da Geremia da Mantova (1466-8),[113] and by Nando Corbolini and Leonardo Guidocci (1473-4).[114] Although the nature of their interventions cannot be ascertained, it probably involved a new gilding.[115] It is possible that further minor restorations were conducted after the removal of the group to the Capitol in 1538.[116] In 1835 a commission composed by Carlo Fea, Vincenzo Camuccini and Giuseppe Valadier commissioned Bertel Thorvaldsen to remodel the lower portion of the mane, which was then executed by the founder Giuseppe Spagna, who also replaced the tip of the raised hoof and part of the internal armature of the horse.[117] Conservation treatments of the surface and of the internal armature were undertaken by Adolfo Apolloni in 1910-12,[118] and, under the direction of Alessandra Melucco Vaccaro, in 1987-8.[119]


[1]The statue was correctly identified as Marcus Aurelius for the first time in 1473-4 by Bartolomeo Sacchi, called Platina, secretary and librarian of Pope Sixtus IV, see Carducci, Fiorini and Muratori 1900-1975, III.1, p. 418; Albertini 1510, II, p. Qii r., lines 15-22; Fulvio 1527, IV, fol. lxxix v.; Aldrovandi 1556, p. 268; and the inscription on Michelangelo’s base, 1538-40, reproduced in Ferroni and Sacco 1989, pp. 198-9.

[2]Liber Pontificalis Ecclesiae Romanae(966 and 983 A.D.), see Duchesne 1955-7, II, pp. 252, CXXXVI, 259, CXL; Mirabilia Urbis Romae(1143), see Valentini and Zucchetti 1940-53, III, p. 32; Benjamin ben Jonah of Tudela (1165-1167), see Borchardt 1936, p. 69; Magister Gregorius (1150-1210), see Valentini and Zucchetti 1940-53, III, p. 145, Nardella 1997, pp. 146-7; ‘Prospettivo Milanese’ (1496-7), see Agosti and Isella2004, pp. 83-5; Albertini 1510, II, p. Qii r., lines 17-18; Smollett 1979 (1766), p. 287 (letter XXXIII).

[3]Magister Gregorius (1150-1210), see Valentini and Zucchetti 1940-53, III, p. 145; Nardella 1997, pp. 146-7.



[6]Mirabilia Urbis Romae(1143), see Valentini and Zucchetti 1940-53, III, p. 32.

[7]Libro delle Storie di Fioravante(1315-1340), as ‘villano’, see Frugoni 1984, pp. 39-40, De Lachenal 1990a, pp. 36-8; Francesco da Fiano (d. 1425), see Buddensieg 1983, p. 50, note 49; Giovanni Rucellai, Della bellezza e anticaglia di Roma(1450), in Valentini and Zucchetti 1940-53, IV, p. 408; Gamucci 1565, I, p. 17.

[8]Poggio Bracciolini,De varietate fortunae(1448), see Valentini and Zucchetti 1940-53, IV, p. 241; Fulvio 1527, IV, fol. lxxix v.; Aldrovandi 1556, p. 268; Gamucci 1565, I, p. 17; Smollett 1979 (1766), p. 287 (letter XXXIII).

[9]Inscribed on the base of Filarete’s bronze statuette, c. 1440-5, transcribed in Pisanello1988, p. 235, no. 82 (A. Nesselrath), and in Census ID 46597; frequently reproduced, recently in Alberti2005, p. 307.

[10]Robert Flemmyng, Lucubraciunculae tiburtinae(c. 1477), see Buddensieg 1983, p. 62, no. 1.

[11]Poliziano 1489, Misc. LXV; Fulvio 1527, IV, fol. lxxix v.; Aldrovandi 1556, p. 268.

[12]Bernardo Rucellai, De Urbe Roma(c. 1495), see Valentini and Zucchetti 1940-53, IV, p. 450; Doni 1549, fol. 19 v.; Aldrovandi 1556, p. 268.

[13]‘Capitolo Lateranense’ (1498), see De Lachenal 1990b, pp. 21-2, note 296; Morgan 1821, III, p. 231.

[14]Fulvio 1527, IV, fol. lxxix v.; Aldrovandi 1556, p. 268; Gamucci 1565, I, p. 17; Smollett 1979 (1766), p. 287 (letter XXXIII).

[15]‘True Description’ 1745 (c. 1595-1600), p. 27.

[16]Du Val 1656, I, p. 257.

[17]Duchesne 1955-7, II, p. 252, CXXXVI, p. 254, note 8; Frugoni 1984, pp. 40-1; Herklotz 1985, p. 24.

[18]Duchesne 1955-7, II, p. 259, CXL.

[19]The Celio-Lateran area, the Forum, and the Campo Marzio have all been proposed. For an overview of the different opinions see De Lachenal 1990a, p. 2, note 3; Nardella 1997, pp. 85-6; Di Cosmo and Fatticcioni 2012, p. 338.

[20]Hecksher 1955, p. 35, note 25a; Gramaccini 1985, pp. 54-6; Herklotz 1985, pp. 40-2; Torelli 1989, pp. 95-7; De Lachenal 1990a, pp. 2-4, and note 9.

[21]Duchesne 1955-7, II, p. 451.

[22]Giuliano 1984, p. 70; De Lachenal 1990a, p. 19, note 109. For an attempted identification of the precise location of the statue on the Lateran Square see Herklotz 1985, p. 24; De Lachenal 1990a, p. 6.

[23]Hecksher 1955; Fehl1974, p. 80; Giuliano 1984, p. 70; De Lachenal 1990a, p. 17.

[24]Hülsen and Egger 1913-16, I, pp. 36-9, fol. 71r.

[25]A fourteenth-century Cronicareports that water and wine spouted all day from the nostrils of the horse on the occasion of the election of Cola di Rienzo as Tribune of Rome on 1 August 1347, but scholars have interpreted this as referring to the mouth of the lions instead, see Frugoni 1984, p. 37; Giuliano 1984, pp. 70-2; De Lachenal 1990a, pp. 19-22, 40-1, who supposes instead that these were Cosmatesque marble lions, substituted by the black Egyptian basalt lions only in the fifteenth century.

[26]Giuliano 1984; Nesselrath 1988, p. 203; De Lachenal 1990b, pp. 3-4; 22-5. See also Pietrangeli 1954 and Pietrangeli 1956 for successive relocations of the lions.

[27]Nikolaus Muffel, Beschreibung der Stadt Rom(1452), see Michaelis 1888, p. 257; Valentini and Zucchetti, 1940-53, IV, p. 355, but see Nesselrath 1988, p. 203.

[28]Müntz 1878-82, II, pp. 92-3.

[29]Ibid., III, pp. 176-7. The inscription is transcribed in Albertini 1510, II, p. Qii r., lines 21-2. On the new base see Giuliano 1984, p. 74; Di Cosmo and Fatticcioni 2012, p. 339, note 36.

[30]Künzle 1961, p. 257, note 14; De Lachenal 1990b, p. 42.

[31]Barbieri and Puppi 1964, pp. 886-7; Mezzatesta 1984; De Lachenal 1990b, pp. 42-6; Tittoni, Contardi and Pennini Alessandri 1992, pp. 8-10, for a detailed analysis of the removal in 1538 with previous bibliography.

[32]Ackerman 1990, catalogue, pp. 307-13; Argan and Contardi 1993, pp. 252-63.

[33]Vacca 1594, Mem, 18; see Ferroni and Sacco 1989, p. 196, who report other sources and opinions on the origins of the block of marble used for the base.

[34]Ackerman 1990, p. 150, catalogue, p. 308; Tittoni, Contardi and Pennini Alessandri 1992, p. 10, with previous bibliography.

[35]Barbieri and Puppi 1964, p. 890. For the complex debate and opposing views on the phases and date of Michelangelo’s base see, on the one hand, Ferroni and Sacco 1989; Mura Sommella 1989 and Mura Sommella 1997 – who argue for the existence of an original quadrangular base, c. 1538, later to be reworked according to Michelangelo’s design between 1554-64 by the ‘scarpellino’Benedetto Gaia, called Schiena; and, on the other, Künzle 1961, pp. 261-2; Tittoni, Contardi and Pennini Alessandri 1992, pp. 7-27 – who argue for the execution of Michelangelo’s base already in 1538-40, later enlarged with the addition of the ‘membretti’, or angular corners, in c. 1560. For a summary see Parisi Presicce 1997c.

[36]La Rocca 1981, p. 60; Marco Aurelio1984.

[37]La Rocca 2006, pp. 183, 193.

[38]Nesselrath 1988.

[39]Ackerman 1957.

[40]Fea in Winckelmann (ed. Fea) 1783-4, III, p. 414.

[41]Pliny, XXXIV, 19. Other sources on equestrian statues in ancient Rome are mentioned in Parisi Presicce 1989, p. 20, and note 2; see also Bergemann 1990. The only other antique equestrian statue known in Italy since the Middle Ages was the so-called Regisolein Pavia, destroyed in 1797, see Saletti 1997; Lomartire 2008.

[42]Mirabilia Urbis Romae(1143), see Valentini and Zucchetti 1940-53, III, pp. 32, 91-2; De Lachenal 1990a, pp. 9-10.

[43]Smollett 1979 (1766),p. 287 (letter XXXIII). See also De Lachenal 1990a, p. 10 and note 49.

[44]For the political use of the statue during the Middle Ages, within the context of the struggle between Church, Empire and the civic power of Rome, see Ackerman 1957, pp. 72-3; Frugoni 1984, pp. 51-70; Gramaccini 1985, pp. 57-61, 64-5; Herklotz 1985, pp. 24-29, 41-42; De Lachenal 1990a, passim, esp. pp. 7-22.

[45]Livy, VII, 6; Magister Gregorius (1150-1210), who however refers to him as Quintus Quirinus, see Valentini and Zucchetti 1940-53, III, p. 145, Nardella 1997, pp. 88-9, 146-53; De Lachenal 1990a, pp. 15-16.

[46]Mirabilia Urbis Romae(1143), see Valentini and Zucchetti 1940-53, III, pp. 32-3; Magister Gregorius (1150-1210), who calls him Marcus, see Valentini and Zucchetti 1940-53, III, pp. 145-7, Nardella 1997, pp. 146-51. On this interpretation see Tommasini 1878, pp. 12-13; Ackerman 1957, pp. 72-3; Gramaccini 1985, pp. 57-8; De Lachenal 1990a, pp. 10-12.

[47]See note 7.

[48]Montfaucon 1702, p. 301, note 27. The date of the barbarian’s removal cannot be ascertained with precision, but it does not appear already in a drawing attributed to Pisanello of c. 1427-32, see Pisanello1988, pp. 232-3, no. 80 (A. Nesselrath); Alberti2005, pp. 267-8, no. II.10.7 (A. Nesselrath); but see Gramaccini 1985, p. 73; Foppa 2003, pp. 138-9, no. 24 (G. Romano), for different attributions of the drawing.

[49]Magister Gregorius (1150-1210), see Valentini and Zucchetti 1940-53, III, p. 145; Nardella 1997, pp. 87-9, 146-7. On its interpretation as Theodoric see Frugoni 1984, pp. 41-50.

[50]See note 8.

[51]See note 14.

[52]See note 12.

[53]See note 15.

[54]See note 1. For a discussion see Weiss 1969, p. 80; Knauer 1990, p. 282.

[55]E.g. Lafreri London, fol. xx – dated 1548; Lafrery Chicago (A135) – possibly dated 1581-6; Cavalleriis (1), plate 42; Cavalleriis (2), plate 68; Cavalleriis (3), plate 68; Perrier 1638, plates 11-12 and Index.

[56]Frugoni pp. 32-70; Gramaccini 1985, pp. 54-55, 61-4, 66-9; De Lachenal 1990a, pp. 7-8, 12-13, 23-34, 38-40.

[57]Pope-Hennessy 1958, p. 332; Pisanello 1988, p. 235, no. 82 (A. Nesselrath); Alberti 2005, p. 312, no. III.2.2 (A. Nesselrath); Census ID 46597.

[58]Vacca 1594, Mem. 18.

[59]Hermann 1910, p. 206; Carolus: Charles Quint 1999-2000, pp. 262-3, no. 146 (A. Radcliffe); Antico 2011, p. 192.

[60]Baldinucci 1846-7, III, p. 591; Weihrauch 1967, p. 344. For extensive lists of bronze reductions of the Marcus Aureliussee Natur und Antike 1985, pp. 353-9, nos 53-60; Parisi Presicce 1997b, pp. 36-41.

[61]Bartsch 1803-21, XIV, nos. 514-15; XV, p. 263, no. 87; Hind 1938-48, plates 656, 802, 869; De Lachenal 1990b; Gallottini 1994, pp. 124-5; Parisi Presicce 1997b, pp. 42-5; Bober and Rubinstein 2010, pp. 224-5; CensusID 151697.

[62]Gronau 1906, p. 9.

[63]Vacca 1594, Mem. 18; Winckelmann (ed. Fea) 1783-4, II, p. 395, note*; De Lachenal 1990b, pp. 43-4.

[64]Zoffoli, Righetti (see Appendix). On Zoffoli see also Teolato 2012a, pp. 493, 502. On Righetti see Teolato 2012b, p. 207; DBI, LXXXVII, 2016, s.v. Righetti, p. 499 (C. Teolato).

[65]Harris, C. n.d., p. 9.

[66]Wedgwood 1779, class I, section I, no. 1078; class II, section II, no. 242.

[67]Arisi 1986, p. 351, no. 240, pp. 356-7, nos 250-1, p. 359, no. 255, p. 370, no. 277, p. 373, no. 283, p. 399, no. 336, p. 406, no. 351, pp. 412-13, nos 363-5, p. 421, no. 379, p. 460, no. 463; Panini1993, pp. 94-5, no. 11; pp. 148-9, no. 36.

[68]Robert 2016, pp. 144-5, no. 12, pp. 161, 240, 242-3, no. 59, pp. 292-3, no. 78.

[69]Today at Shugborough Estate, Staffordshire (NT 1270946).

[70]‘The people will be happy when they will have philosophers as kings or when their kings will be philosophers’, with Tomasso Brothers Fine Art, Leeds at the time of writing. Another marble copy of comparable dimension is at Slane Castle, County Meath, Ireland.

[71]Pressouyre 1969 (‘Fontes’), pp. 224-5; but see Adhémar 1949; Cox-Rearick 1995, pp. xx.

[72]Vasari 1878-85, VII, p. 541; Vasari 1966-87, vol. xx, p. xx.

[73]Boucher 1981, p. 25 and note 20; Mezzatesta 1984, p. 630; Mezzatesta 1985; Helmstutler Di Dio 2011, pp. 110-17.

[74]Montaiglon 1887-1912 (Correspondance), I, pp. 17, 145.

[75]Perrault 1964, I, pp. 185-6 (of facsimile).

[76]Caus [c. 1626-30], plate 4; Harris, J. 1979, plate 129; and see the two drawings of the gardens at Wilton by William Stukeley dated 1721 and 1723 in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (MS. Top. Gen. d. 13, fol. 10, and Gough Maps, 33, fol. 19); Baker 2008, p. 384, fig. 4.

[77]Harris, J. 1970, p. 41.

[78]Creed 1731, plate IX; see also Kennedy 1769, pp. 57-8; Michaelis 1882, p. 679.

[79]Winckelmann (ed Fea) 1783-4, II, p. 395; Winckelmann 2002, pp. 812, 814 (ed. 1764), pp. 813, 815 (ed. 1776).

[80]Parisi Presicce 1997b, p. 28.

[81]Palma, De Lachenal and Micheli 1986, pp. 2-5, no. I,2 (L. de Lachenal); Palazzo Altemps2002, p. 71.

[82]Parisi Presicce 1997b, p. 28. Cavaceppi adapted the head of the equestrian Marcus Aureliusto a loose interpretation of the emperor’s marble bust in the Capitoline Museums, for which see Fittschen and Zanker 1985, pp. 76-7, no. 69. See also Cavaceppi1994, p. 104, no. 19 (M.G. Barberini), where it is considered a copy of the Capitoline marble bust. Cavaceppi realised also reduced versions of the whole equestrian group in terracotta, and marble, see Parisi Presicce 1997b, p. 28, with previous bibliography.

[83]Parisi Presicce 1997b, p. 28, with previous bibliography. For the copy in Göttingen see also Abgekupfert2013, pp. 184-6, no. II.10 (D. Graepler).

[84]For a collection of sources on the Marcus Aureliusin alphabetical order see Chevallier 1984.

[85]Vasi 1791, I, p. 109 (for Michelangelo); Falconet 1781, I, pp. 166, 208, note (for Pietro da Cortona and Bernini); Burney 1969, p. 137 (for Maratta).

[86]Seignelay 1867, p. 137.

[87]Addison 1705, p. 349.

[88]Caylus 1914, p.181.

[89]Doni 1549, fol. 19v.

[90]Gibbon 1961, p. 239.

[91]Du Bos 1719, I, pp. 372-3.

[92]Winckelmann 1756, p. 38; Winckelmann 2013, pp. xx

[93]Winckelmann (ed. Fea) 1783-4, I, p. 388; II, p. 395; III, p. 225; for a full list of references to the Marcus Aureliusin Winckelmann’s writings see Winckelmann 2006, p. 316, no. 719.

[94]Dupaty 1812, II, pp. 4-5.

[95]Forsyth 1813, p. 227.

[96]Skippon 1752 [1663-6], p. 651; Winckelmann (ed. Fea) 1783-4, I, pp. xxv-xxvi, note b; Winckelmann 2002, p. XVIII (ed. 1764), p. XIX (ed. 1776).

[97]Dieckmann and Seznec 1952, p. 205; Schenker 2003, passim.

[98]Falconet 1781, I, p. 256; Kaganovich 1963, pp. 46-93.

[99]Falconet 1781, I, p. 162.

[100]Falconet 1781, I, pp. 157-348; and II, pp. 1-38.

[101]Fea in Winckelmann (ed. Fea) 1783-4, III, p. 416; Stendhal 1973, p. 735 (Promenades dans Rome).

[102]Falconet 1781, II, pp. 181-92.

[103]See above, note 11. For a discussion on the Marcus Aureliusas ‘pacificator’ see Buddensieg 1969, p. 220, note 35; De Lachenal 1990b, pp. 42-3.

[104]Hare 1879, I, p. 158.

[105]Horne 1999, p. 29 (11 Nov. 1869).

[106]Vasari 1878-85, III, p. 359; Vasari 1966-87, vol. xx, p. xx.

[107]See Janson 1973; De Lachenal 1990b; Parisi Presicce 1997b, for useful overviews of equestrian statues influenced by the Marcus Aurelius.

[108]Roscoe 2009, pp. 1364-5, nos 299, 311.

[109]Gentleman’s Magazine1822, XCII, II, p. 453.

[110]Grandesso 2015, pp. 227-30.

[111]Helbig 1963-72, II, pp. 3-4, no. 1161 (H. v. Heintze).

[112]See De Lachenal 1990a, p. 2, note 3; Nardella 1997, pp. 85-6; Di Cosmo and Fatticcioni 2012, p. 338, all offering a summary of the different opinions on its ancient location; the latter also for a full summary of the archaeological debate.

[113]Müntz 1878-82, II, pp. 92-3; see also Pisanello1988, p. 237, no. 84 (A. Nesselrath).

[114]Müntz 1878-82, III, pp. 176-7; see also De Lachenal 1990b, pp. 18-20.

[115]Fiorentino 1989, p. 274.

[116]Basile 1984, p. 23; and Parisi Presicce 1997c, pp. 47, 49, suggest that Michelangelo might have been responsible for minor restorations and resolution of static problems in 1539; but see Tittoni, Contardi and Pennini Alessandri 1992, p. 11.

[117]Tabak 1982; Melucco Vaccaro 1989, pp. 234-6; Parisi Presicce 1997c, pp. 48-9.

[118]La Rocca 1981, p. 56; Melucco Vaccaro 1989, p. 236; Parisi Presicce 1997c, p. 49.

[119]Melucco Vaccaro 1989, p. 237.

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