Saturday, January 19, 2013

Herr Wagner, Meet Sior Antonio Rioba

Something important is missing from this photo taken this morning: at least, from Richard Wagner's point of view
They say that the famous metal nose of the stone figure embedded into the corner of one of the buildings on Campo dei Mori in Cannaregio--the figure known as "Sior Antonio Rioba"--was first attached in the 19th Century, so it's entirely possible that Richard Wagner might have seen it during one of his sojourns in the city. Considering the recent act of vandalism in Castello's giardini pubblici that has deprived Wagner's statue of its own nose, I hope the famous composer never made too merry at the expense of Rioba's unfortunate appendage, as his own statue is now in need of one itself.

Wagner, left, attempts to brazen it out without a nose; Rioba, right, long ago succumbed to a brass one
When I first noticed that Wagner's nose was missing, I wondered if someone might have been trying to make a statement about the composer's anti-Semitism and reactionary politics. But, in fact, as I later noticed, the nose of Giuseppe Verdi was also partly hacked off by the same vandal or group of vandals.

Sandro, whose regular observation of the insane way underage Venetians tear around the lagoon in their boats--as well as the way they break playground equipment meant for young kids--has led him to a general disapproval of their age group, immediately attributed the act to "teenagers" (scornful emphasis his). Perhaps he's right.

In any case, given the budget shortages the city already faces--there are public schools here in which parents are responsible for supplying the school's toilet paper--who knows how long the statues will be noseless? Though their visible location in a park, near a major tourist draw (The Biennale), will likely speed up their repair.


  1. Am I just more sensitive to it, or does there seem to be an increase in this senseless sort of behaviour ... graffiti, destruction of property, increase in rubbish all over Venice, and the list goes on. Where has civic pride gone?


    1. I can imagine some kids might believe they're doing something akin to art--"expressing themselves"--with their scrawls, Yvonne, but maybe it's just all about destruction. Recent polls have shown that most young Italians don't have much hope for their own future & would like to move to another country, and here in Venice, where opportunities are even narrower, well, I imagine civic pride especially takes a hit when so little of what goes on in the city is oriented toward residents and so little of the city's future is in the hands of residents. It takes a great leap of faith to think that one can fight off the outside corporate forces that can't wait to squeeze every last cent from the city and every last bit of actual life. Additionally, the school system seems pretty poor here so I doubt the kids are getting much encouragement to try to think beyond the monoculture of tourism--as it's so hard for anyone, even highly-educated adults with multiple degrees in urban planning, for example, to figure out what to do next.

  2. After 5 years the nose is 'restored'!

    1. Thank you much for letting me know about this, Brigitte--but, as you point out, the "restoration" leaves something to be desired! I also appreciate you tracking down the fact that an official restoration could be done if anyone would pony up 8,000 euro. That seems awfully expensive--I think I could get work done on my own for less. So perhaps the present version is at least a step in the right direction (if only it were centered a bit better).