Title and Date of Work: Capitoline She-Wolf (5th century BC or medieval)
Name of Artist(s): Unknown-She Wolf; Romulus and Remus-perhaps Antonio del Pollaiuolo
Location: Capitoline Museum
Dimensions: 75 cm
This statue has become the symbol of Rome. It is displayed on trashcans as well as official government documents. But that was not this statues original purpose. This statue originally had nothing to do with the myth and was just the she-wolf by itself. The two figures of he twins, Romulus and Remus, were added later in the 15th century.
According to legend, Numitor, grandfather of Romulus and Remus, was overthrown by Amulius, his brother, and forced Numitor’s daughter, Rhea, to become a vestal virgin. Rhea conceived the twins by the god Mars but Amulius ordered the twins to be thrown into the Tiber. Somehow, through a series of miraculous events, the babies are safe. The Tiber River actually carries them to safety, then the famous she-wolf finds them and suckles them, and a woodpecker comes to feed them. The twins were then found and raised by a shepherd and became very well respected.
When they discovered the truth, the twins killed Amulius and restored power to Numitor, who is still alive apparently. Romulus and Remus have differing opinions on where to found the new city. Romulus wanted to found it on the Palatine Hill while Remus wanted to found it on the Aventine Hill. They fight to the death on this matter and Remus is killed. Romulus then established the city on the Palatine hill and named the new city, Roma, after him. Romulus establishes an army and a senate. He also arranged the abduction of the neighboring Sabine women, an event portrayed by many future artists. Not much is know about Romulus’ death. Some say he just disappeared and others that he died in mysterious circumstances. Whatever it is, this is one of the main and most well known myths in all of Rome and even Italy.
The statue was thought to originally be an Etruscan statue that was later adopted as the symbol of Rome. No doubt the twins were added later, during the Renaissance, but now many believe the wolf itself was cast during the Middle Ages. This theory is based on new information of the methods and research into the bronze-casting techniques. “Now incontestable proofs tell us that the she-wolf is not a product of the Antiquities,” Adriano La Regina, former Rome’s archaeological superintendent and professor of Etruscology at Rome’s La Sapienza University, wrote in Italy’s daily “La Repubblica.” La Regina’s only evidence and support for this theory is because the statue is cast as one single piece, rather than individual pieces, which would have been the way the Ancient people did it. Gregory Warden, a professor of art history at Southern Methodist University who specializes in Etruscan bronzes, found the suggestion that the she-wolf may be medieval “intriguing.” But, he does not consider the matter closed. “While the statue is singular, and thus difficult to compare to other Etruscan statuary, I do not think that the technical argument is fully persuasive, since we have so little comparative evidence for large-scale bronze casting in the Etruscan world,” he said. “We certainly cannot assume that Etruscan bronze-casting techniques would always have been identical to those of the Greeks.” The wolf, by itself, seems defiant and strong and it’s no wonder why this statue has become the symbol of Rome, a defiant and strong city.