Art@Site Valerio Cioli Fontana del Bacchino (little Bacchus)

Valerio Cioli


Fontana del Bacchino (little Bacchus)

Giardino di Boboli
Braccio di Bartolo was the court dwarf of Cosimo I de’ Medici. This was a relatively common profession in all of the major courts in Europe at the time, sometimes coinciding with the role as the court jester. As small people were considered to be ‘lucky charms’ (and sometimes healers), they were highly desirable in the courts, and they also represented the power of the ruler (becoming part of a collection of unusual humans, animals and objects). Today’s mores cannot be applied to yesterday’s reality. This was actually a good profession for Morgante (whose nickname was a twist on a 15th c. epic by Luigi Pulci in which Morgante was a giant who was killed by the bite of a crab).
Valerio Cioli, a pupil of Niccolo Tribolo, was restoring the Medici’s collection of ancient Roman statuary when he was commissioned to create this marble statue between 1561 and 1564. It was apparently a good likeness, according to Vasari. In 1579, the statue was made a part of the fountain.
There are several interesting points about the statue. One is that Morgante is riding the tortoise with his right hand in a similar position to that of Marcus Aurelius equestrian statue in Rome (see the Rome section). Another is the tortoise itself. One of Cosimo’s personal symbols (his impresa) is a turtle (or tortoise) with a sail, chosen to illustrate one of his mottoes: Festina lente (more haste, less speed).
It is thought that the idea was to link the three concepts, tying together Cosimo I (tortoise with a sail), Marcus Aurelius, and Morgante the giant. Regardless, Morgante did his job once again, amusing the Medici family, his guests, and now us.