The Italian Almanac

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Rome's she-wolf

Rome's She-Wolf

The German weekly Der Spiegel called the iconic bronze statue of Rome's she-wolf an imitation, bringing an old scholarly row back into the spotlight. "The symbol of the eternal city should be 2500 years old," the report said, "but such is not the case". It went on to speculate that a Spanish master forged the statue during the Middle Ages based on techniques which would not have been available to ancient Roman artists.

The Capitoline Museum, where the she-wolf is housed, released a statement promising to acknowledge the 'hypothesis' of the statue's Medieval making alongside the traditional date. The sculpture's vintage has been proudly advertised asdating back, close enough, to Romulus's mythical foundation ofthe city in 753 BC. But a Rome newspaper first exploded the myth in 2006, 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, the daily said, 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.

The ancient dating of the Lupa Capitolina statue was confidently made amid a hubbub of excitement surrounding the discovery of a 7th-century BC Etruscan masterpiece, the Apollo of Veio, in 1916. Similarities in technique and even expression led experts to conclude that another master craftsman from Veio made the monument to Rome's foundation myth.