If you’ve ever passed by Campo Santo Stefano, you will have seen the interesting statue of Niccolò Tommaseo.
Who was Niccolò Tommaseo?
Tommaseo was a linguist, a writer, a defendant of the free press and a precursor of the Italian irredentism, a movement for the liberation of Italian cities from foreign occupation. Thanks to his beliefs and his works, Tommaseo was named Ministry of Education for the Republic of San Marco in 1848, when Venetians temporary freed themselves from the Austrian occupation.
When Tommaseo died in 1874, Venice was finally part of the Reign of Italy and Venetians were therefore entitled to erect a statue for their beloved scholar and patriot.
Here's a funny story:
The artist Francesco Barzaghi began working on a big block of Carrara Marble in 1882. Halfway through the process, the sculptor noticed major stability issues which had to be taken care of. Because of the great and known scholar background of Tommaseo, Barzaghi decided to carve a big pile of books on which the statue could lean on and be balanced again. But…
but those books piled up behind the statue seem to be coming straight from underneath Tommaseo’s long coat: those books look more like a production of the body, rather than of the mind!
In fact, the very same moment the statue was shown to Venetians, it immediately got an irreverent nickname.
Since that day in 1882, Venetians passing by Campo Santo Stefano refer to the statue of Niccolò Tommaseo as the “Cagalibri”, or “book-pooper“!
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