Public Art: Vittorio Emanuele II Monument
Sculptor: © Ercole Rosa (1846-1893)
Date Unveiled: June 14th 1896
Description: The bronze equestrian statue depicts Vittorio Emanuele II (14 March 1820 – 9 January 1878) on his stead leading the troops in the Battle of San Martino. On the red granite base, there are bronze reliefs depicting the Piedmontese troops entering Milan during the Second War of Independence. On the front pedestal is the date “June 1859” to mark the King’s arrival in Milan. On the other side is the date “June 14 1896” the inauguration date of the monument. On the sides of the statue, there are two marble lions. The paw of one lion rests on a plate engraved with Rome, the other lion’s paw rests on a plate engraved Milan.
Location: The monument to Vittorio can be found at the Piazza del Duomo (near the impressive shopping center Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II), Milan, Italy.
So who was Victor Emmanuel? : Vittorio Emanuele II (March 14th, 1820 – January 9th, 1878) was the first King of a United Italy. But let’s start right at the beginning. Victor was born straight into royalty, being the eldest son of Charles Albert (King of Sardinia) Though born in Turin, a young Victor spent a considerable amount of his time growing up in Florence. Not scared of a good fight, Victor joined his father in the First Italian War of Independence (1848). The next year he became king after his father abdicated the throne following a rather humiliating defeat by the Austrians. After a bit of reorganizing, Victor managed to make up with the Austrians and divert a few revolts eg Genoa. He also gave the Prime Minister the flick and replaced him with Count Camillo di Cavour, a political mastermind.
Victor soon came into favour with the public and become the symbol of a United Italy. Following a few interesting wars (Crimean and Italian Wars of Independence) and excommunication from the Catholic Church, Italy was on its way to becoming unified. His army eventually joined forces with Garibaldi and defeated the papal army and the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed in 1861.
Following the Franco Prussian War, he entered Rome on September 20, 1871, declaring it the new capital of Italy on July 2, 1871. Now known as King Victor Emmanuel II, he claimed the Quirinal Palace as the new Royal residence. King Victor lived long enough to see the reversal of his excommunication, by Pope Pius IX’s envoys and was later buried in the Pantheon.
Following his death, a monument in his honor was announced. Construction of Il Vittoriano began in 1885 and a great mass of ruins and medieval churches were destroyed in order to build the monstrosity designed by Giuseppe Sacconi.
Background to the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument:
In 1878 Ercole Rosa won a commission to build a statue dedicated to Emanuele II in Vercelli. However, the following year he was also chosen to create a statue of Emanuele II in Milan. It wasn’t surprising that he chose the Milan commission as it was a more prestigious, appealing and grander.
In 1893 all the bronze castings were completed and a location finalized. The centre of the Piazza del Duomo won out over a location near the Royal Palace. Unfortunately, Ercole died that year and the project was completed by the Barzaghi brothers under the watchful eye of sculptor Ettore Ferrari.
In 2012 a foundation room was discovered under the monument.
Things You May Not Know:
Ercole Rosa became a stonemason at the age of 12, following the death of his father.