The Appennine Colossus

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Measuring about 35 feet tall, it’s arguably the most spectacular feature of the gardens of Villa Medici at Pratolino, now part of Villa Demidoff, located about 7 miles north of Florence, Italy. A personification of the Apennine mountain ranges, it’s sculpted as though on that minimal margin between landscape and man, its smooth skin emerging out of the rough terrain or metamorphosing back into a mountain. He even has stalactites for a shaggy beard.

This colossal sculpture recalls the figure of Atlas in Virgil’s Aeneid, and also the architect Dinocrates’ proposal to shape Mount Athos into a man in honor of Alexander the Great.

Giovanni Bologna, Appennino, 1579

Giovanni Bologna, Appennino, 1579

The Appennino in 1911.

The Appennino in 1911.

With seemingly all the might of his hand, he squeezes the head of a monstrous beast, which spills a cascade of water out of its hell-mouth and into a fish pond.

Of course, the Appennino isn’t just a sculpture. He’s also a building.

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Appennino sliced and split.

Appennino sliced and split.

Inside you will find a network of grottoes, their walls studded with shells, corals, pearls and crystals, and painted with frescoes of muscled men mining precious ores. In this way, Appennino is both mountains and abysses. You enter not only the belly of a garden giant but also down into the belly of the earth. There were also two working fountains, one of which portrayed Thetis, and located in his head is a chamber for a small orchestra.

Section of Appennino. Illustration by P. van der Ree.

Section of Appennino. Illustration by P. van der Ree.

There’s also some sort of fireplace in the head. When lit, smoke would billow out of Appennino’s nose.

Location: Vaglia, Tuscany, Italy

Source: pruned.blogspot.com

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