Ritrovate dopo 30 anni due sculture degli Ardolino .
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The Warrior Prince and The Sleeping Lion

 

di  Florindo Cirignano

 

     
 

 

LaThe re-discovery of two Ardolino sculptures

 

"He stuck the tip of the spear in the sand, while his left hand loosened the rope supporting the harp on his shoulder. Barely touching the strings, the notes called out and caressed the rocks and trees, sliding down the dunes with the wind, in the caves and down dark cliffs.  The lion stopped.  He lay quietly on their legs and fell asleep. The slave with long black hair knelt and, with reverence gazing toward the ground and said "It is very powerful, your music, my Lord; as powerful as your sword."

 

 From the book "Il libro dei mutamenti torresi", anonymous, XI Sec. 

 

 
     
                 
 

I spent my childhood up to age twelve in a small house in Via B. Rotondi, the last house in what was once the outskirts of the village. Adjacent to my home were farmlands, about 500 meters in, was the Iarrobino farmhouse.

The horizons of a child of those times were far less extensive than those of children today, but precisely because of this, sizes and distances seemed much broader.  We lived pretty far (200 meters) from the center of town and I didn't have other children nearby to while away the long summer afternoons.

 

In truth, a girl a couple of years older than me, lived in the basement of my house, but she loved to play with dolls and not guns, rifles and arrows.  Boredom, like happiness, was a constant in that era, but if it is true that she is the mother of all vices, she is also very conducive to creating fantastic dreams.

 

 Sentenced to total isolation (so to speak), I had developed a good imagination, a necessary counterweight to the frustration I felt every time I tried to masterfully roll a hoop.

 

Much of my time was spent sitting at the gate, waiting for the end of the damned "controra." This was the time between noon and five during which, in summer, it was inconceivable that a normal person would be seen on the streets of the country.  The "controra" was to my childhood like dictatorship is to democracy (to paraphrase a famous quotation of Mafalda), because in those days there was no television and those hours were truly interminable.

 

As I said, I spent a lot of time sitting alone on the front steps and could not help but observe a building that, from strada Costarella stood over me like a fortress. It had the appearance, with the first wall, of a moat (the uncovered garage of the De Angelis family), a second wall of defense (the garden) and, finally, the three-floored building, at the time inhabited by four or five families.

 

Imbedded in the walls, at the second floor level, were two "masks", clearly distinguishable from afar. 

 

 

The distinctive stone sculptures according to superstitions of earlier times, served to protect the homes from envy, slander and evil.  In Torre it is possible to still find many similar, some of which were probably stolen in past centuries from local archeological sites.  The two masks depicted a lion and what appeared to me as an ancient Egyptian.  I often wondered if the Egyptian had killed the lion or been devoured by it.  Sometimes I would come to the comforting conclusion that the beast and he man had been friends and returned together in harmony to the desert. 

After the earthquake of 1980, that house was demolished and rebuilt, but without the masks. A half a century later I was reminded of those sculputures when I discovered that this was once the home of the family of Eduardo Ardolino, the creator of our War Memorial and many other valuable works in the USA.

 After much searching, I learned that the two sculptures were removed during the period of "post-quake reconstruction," but that they are currently retained by the owner of the building, one Geppino Luongo. 

Curiously, however, the owner did not recall one as an Egyptian sculpture, but rather a Native American, an Indian.  When I was finally able to photograph the two figures I had a double surprise: The face is neither an Egyptian, nor an Indian,  as Geppino claimed, but surely that of a prince.  The royal face, noble and austere, was framed by long, wavy hair, encircled by a royal crown.

The lion also proved to be a surprise due to a characteristic quite different from other lion sculptures in Torre.  It had been carved with eyes closed, apparently dead or perhaps sleeping.

 At this point I realized the greatness of our old craftsmen, their culture and how they were superior to those few that remain today. The difficulties of the times they lived in did not prevent them from having knowledge of the classics.

 Indeed ...! Raffaele Ardolino, the son of a stonemason, born in 1869, (and cousin to Edward Ardolino, later famous), was sent to study Fine Arts in Florence ... was a stone-cutter, although it would be more appropriate to define him as a sculptor. And perhaps it was no coincidence when Edward Ardolino, questioned by a U.S. Customs official regarding his work, answered that he was a sculptor. 

 

It appears the lion was not carved this way by chance, but rather to complement the face of the prince.  The lion was not carved in that way by chance, but as a complement to face the prince. Through the lion, it seems the scultptor wanted to reveal the identity of the prince.

 So what historical or legendary character is linked to the symbolism of a dead or dormant lion?

 The potential candidates are five:

 The Prince of Gilgamesh.  He seems to be eliminated because the only icon in existence at the Louvre Museum is represented by a man with a beard (Assyrian and with long curls), strangling a lion, while our subject is without a beard.

 Samson, also a great strangler of large felines.  He was a judge of Israel, but in the Midrash was regarded as a prince (plus he belonged to the tribe of Judah, the same as David and Christ). 

Alexander The Great: After cutting the "Gordian Knot" he subdued Egypt, which was represented as a tamed lion ( the reference is to the Sphinx). The face, however, does not much resemble some of the Hellenistic statues of the great leader.

 David, the shepherd, had killed lions and was also an ancestor of Christ.  In medieval symbology the sleeping lion is representative of the deceased Christ (but later awake and alive in the Resurrection).

 Finally, the last possible candidate, Cheops. We must not forget that the Sphinx represents the great pharoah with the body of a lion, which stands crouched to defy the eternity of the stars.The fact that as a child

 I saw it as an Egyptian face is an inexplicable mystery

 

 

 
                 
     
 
 

Who is the author of these works? Here, the task is difficult to decide, but in every case it is surely an Ardolino.

 

The Ardolinos lived on Costarelle from 1794. The home that housed the two masks was more or less of that period (18th or 19th century).  The artist was probably Pasquale Ardolino (1768-1839), the founder of the school of sculpture or his son Clamanzio (1810 – 1871).  The less likely candidates would have been Giovanni Antonio Ardolino (1836 - 1924), father of Eduardo and Clamanzio Celestino Ardolino.

 

Con l'amabile collaborazione di Carmela e Carole.

 

 
     

 

 

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