The Italian Almanac

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lupa capitolina

Italian News - November 23

A scholarly row over Rome's iconic she-wolf looks set to run and run. The bronze statue of the wolf who famously suckled Romulus and Remus has been displayed on the Capitoline hill for years, its vintage proudly advertised as dating back, close enough, to Romulus's mythical foundation of the city in 753 BC. But a Rome newspaper exploded the myth last week, claiming it was not the work of the Etruscans who provided Rome with its early kings, but medieval in make.

The newspaper, La Repubblica, hinted that a 2000 finding of a scholar who restored the statue had been hushed up so the capital could hold on to its well-loved story. After the four-year restoration Anna Maria Carruba said the wolf could not have been made in ancient times because it was cast in one go. The one-cast technique of forging was invented by medieval sculptors who enjoyed an edge over their supremely skilled but unlucky predecessors, who were hampered by metal impurities.

Ancient statues, unless they were tiny, were cast in bits and pieced together with lamina-like 'glue' to appear seamless, she noted. Carruba's version was corroborated by Rome's former artistic superintendent, Adriano La Regina. But his successor, Eugenio La Rocca, leaped to the defence of the wolf on Tuesday, saying there was "no proof" ancient craftsmen didn't know how to cast a large bronze statue.

"We have numerous examples of smaller works dating to that time," La Rocca said. "Then there are the traces of Tiber earth found in the smelting material, as well as metal from Sardinia. This all fits with the traditional chronology". However, he conceded that Carruba's arguments had thrown up "an interesting scientific problem".