Lupa Capitolina

Background information

Anonymous, 1930s copy of a 500-480 B.C. original, 2'6"h x 3'9"l. 1051 N. Broadway, Chinatown, Los Angeles.
The original bronze she-wolf, attributed to a Greek living in Rome between the late 6th and early 5th centuries B.C., reflects an Etruscan style with Greek influences. Scholars believe the work was a prominent public monument in ancient Rome and may have been referred to in a speech by Cicero. However, the first definitive reference was not until the 10th century A.D., when the wolf was identified as being in front of the Lateran. A restoration funded by Pope Sextus IV (1471 - 1484) added the twins executed by a Tuscan sculptor, Antonio Pollaiuolo (1429 - 1498), which linked the work to the founding of Rome. The complete work is now located in the Palazzo dei Conservatori of the Capitoline Museum in Rome.

According to legend, Romulus and his twin brother Remus were cast into the Tiber by Anulius, who earlier had deposed their grandfather, Numitor, in a struggle for the throne. When the river receded, a she-wolf came by and fed the crying babies by offering her teats. A shepherd later found the boys and raised them. When the brothers had grown, Romulus killed his brother and became the founder of Rome.

The fascist government of Benito Mussolini adopted the Lupa to symbolically link ancient Rome with his dream of empire. As part of Mussolini's support of Italian cultural activities abroad, bronze copies of the work were sent overseas in the early 1930s to social clubs, including one in Fontana. After the club disbanded, the owner of the building where the group met, took possession of the work. In the late 1960s, he sold the statue to Nick Masiello, who donated it to the Casa Italiana in 1972.

Shortly after its installation, one of the twins was stolen. Through contacts at the Vatican, Fr. Luigi Dananzan, a local priest, was able to have the Palazzo dei Conservatori cast a new figure. All three figures composing the Lupa are now welded to the pedestal.

The text has been provided courtesy of Michael Several, Los Angeles, February 1998.

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