31 May 2019

The history of the statues of the Royal Palace

by Simona Vitagliano

“Who pee on the floor?”

“I don’t know anything about it”

“It was me, so what?”

Unsheathing the sword: “Let us escape!”

No, it is not the script of a comic film, but the story that has been given to the statues that appear in the niches of the Royal Palace of Naples. A way also to remember, in a nice way, the names they represent, respectively Charles V of Habsburg, Charles III, Joachim Murat and Victor Emmanuel II; to the appeal, in this speech, the other 4 personalities appearing from the left are missing, namely those of Roger the Norman, Frederick II of Swabia, Charles I of Anjou and Alfonso V of Aragon: each, in short, is called to identify a sovereign and, of the 8 that appear, 7 were right on the throne of the city of Naples.

Antiquity and modernity

Not everyone knows that these sculptures were not always the protagonists of the palace and Piazza Plebiscito. In fact, they only appeared after the opening of the niches – created for security reasons at the building – in 1888 and commissioned by Umberto I of Savoy, certainly with the intention of embellishing those empty basins but also of covering a little importance of the Bourbon dynasty: in fact, on the statue of Charles of Bourbon, we read the caption “Charles III”, to emphasize the Spanish descent.

The statues appear in chronological order, concluding with the only sovereign who was never king of Naples, but of Italy: Vittorio Emanuele II, precisely, whose marble tribute appears even larger in height; a choice that has been widely discussed and criticized for centuries.

Among other things, the artists who have been entrusted with the realization of the works are also different; the story, instead, was born precisely from the imagination of the Neapolitans, simply observing from a distance the position and movements of the subjects depicted.

Just recently this part of the facade of the building was affected by an important restoration, which lasted over three years and ended only in 2017, which kept this piece of history hidden from the Neapolitans and tourists alternating between the streets and the shops of the center historian in search of business or curiosity to learn about our city; for a long time, in short, even we of the Gambrinus and the little boys, the scugnizzi, who meet every day to play football in those immense open spaces, we have felt the lack of that marble background that, for over a century, accompanies generations of footballers in miniature through the phases of life.