Monument to Giuseppe Parini

Author: Luigi Secchi
Title: Monument to Giuseppe Parini
Date: 1899
Location: piazza Cordusio, Milan

Above: Luigi Secchi, Monument to Giuseppe Parini, 1899, piazza Cordusio, Milan, photo by Andrea Scuratti – Comune di Milano.

Poet Giuseppe Parini is portrayed in this large bronze sculpture in a standing pose and in the act of walking, with an attitude reminiscent of ancient statuary, the body wrapped in a large cloak rendered with a wide and extended modeling. The high stone pedestal, embellished with gilded friezes, bears inscriptions on two sides, written for the occasion by Senator Gaetano Negri.

Realized with a public subscription and with a substantial fund from Senator Giuseppe Robecchi’s legacy, the monument was destined to the new Piazza Cordusio, designed by the architect Luca Beltrami, not without controversy. There were those who would have preferred to place it in Piazza Belgiojoso, where the poet had lived, or in the nearby public gardens, while the protests of the workers’ movements weighed on, who wanted the Cordusio to celebrate patriot Felice Cavallotti. Ultimately, however, this last choice, more prestigious and central, prevailed. The monument was entrusted to Luigi Secchi, a sculptor who had often collaborated with Beltrami in the construction sites that renovated Milan at the turn of the century.

The controversy over the monument did not subside even with the inauguration (the authorities had to impose a ceremony in the square accompanied by absolute silence). Still in 1960, the sculpture was temporarily removed for the construction of the subway, and a lively debate was ignited in the press, reviving the desire of those who wanted to confine it to the public gardens. Demonstration of how even an apparently “peaceful” monument like this one can bear disputes and controversy inscribed in its history: many exponents of public life in Milan had evidently never forgotten Parini’s criticisms of the aristocracy and the cultural and political life of the city.