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The Angel of the City

January 22, 2014


The Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice is the most important museum in Italy for European and American art of the first half of the 20th century. Its most famous (or notorious) exhibit is the 1948 bronze The Angel of the City by Marino Marini (1901-1980). Erected at the front of the museum facing the Grand Canal, this sculpture sports an erection of its own.


Marini was one of Italy’s most talented sculptors, settling permanently in Milan after World War II. His work is stripped of all decorative elements, possibly as a nod to the Existential philosophy gripping Europe at the end of the war. The horse and rider theme was one of Marini’s favorites.


The Angel of the City is an outstanding example of the artist’s work. Traditionally, angels are neither male or female, but this angel comes with apparatus making him decidedly male. Over the years the clearly excited angel has offended many and received much criticism. I doubt any of this would have offended the puckish Peggy Guggenheim, who no doubt placed the statue in this well-viewed location to get a rise out of people.


But eventually it was decided that the phallus should be removed when the Archbishop of Venice sailed by during Venice’s Annual Regatta or when important dignitaries visited the city. Painful as it sounds, the angel’s unit was lopped off and threaded so it could be screwed back into position after the VIPs passed by. When not attached, it was hidden in a drawer.


The museum was forced to fill that drawer with dozens of replacements because thieves couldn’t resist pinching these penises, which posed little difficulty since they unscrewed easily. A method of securing them was eventually found and vandals finally left the sculpture alone. But that wasn’t the end of it. For those of you unfamiliar with bronze sculptures, the more they’re handled the shinier they become, and after a few years of being screwed and unscrewed, the angel’s penis became quite shiny, blindingly so when struck by the sun. Eventually, the trustees of The Guggenheim became fed up with this nonsense and the angel’s manhood was welded to his body.



Check it out the next time you’re in Venice. Marini’s The Angel of the City is a prime example of just how exciting and uplifting modern art can be.  






I think what's disturbing is not just the penis but how erect it is. He must have taken some angel Viagra.
By: PT Dilloway on January 22, 2014
Another great art history lesson. When are finals, I still need to study?
By: Cranky on January 22, 2014
I love what I learn in your posts~
By: Shelly on January 22, 2014
I've always wondered why people get so wound up over our features. You have clearly demonstrated that your penile references continue to give rise even in this day and age. Love how you word-smithed the final sentence.
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 22, 2014
OUCH. Poor angel dude... :)
By: The Bug on January 22, 2014
an interesting read,
By: izdiher on January 22, 2014
laughing out loud! the tale just kept getting funnier and funnier. :)
By: TexWisGirl on January 22, 2014
FUNNY STUFF, Stephen!!
By: fishducky on January 22, 2014
So the dignitaries weren't grown-ups, and had to be protected from the realities of human anatomy?
By: mimi on January 22, 2014
I am still chuckling away as I write. Enlightening AND entertaining!
By: jenny_o on January 22, 2014
I'm laughing out loud a whole new meaning to the phrase "getting screwed."
By: Pixel Peeper on January 22, 2014
Unscrewing, you say? Isn't that kind of like turning the tables on the penis?
By: Val on January 22, 2014
My take is that there is much more to this sculpture than an erection. There is something more about the statute. so my challenge to you is to do a post on everything but the business end. I know I'm taking the fun out of life.
By: red on January 22, 2014
A fascinating piece of eye watering history.
By: John on January 23, 2014
Can't believe they lopped him off rather than perhaps a Descartes cover up when need be. Your play on words was fun.
By: Akansas Patti on January 23, 2014
Is that where the term "polishing the rocket" comes from?
By: Mitchell is Moving on January 23, 2014
So funny. It's like bowlderization but not with words, with deeds.
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on January 23, 2014
Oh, Stephen, that is so delightfully funny! Thank you, thank you, thank you!
By: The Broad on January 23, 2014
The Italians have always displayed an unusual relationship with their penis, shiny or not!
By: Bryan Jones on January 23, 2014
I would of loved to hear the conversations that took place when deciding how to handle the penis. Obviously the word "screw" came into play. How did anyone know this man blob was an angel? It looks like a pumpkin on the head of a scarecrow. You are no doubt disgusted with my total lack of art appreciation,
By: Cheryl P. on January 23, 2014
Stephen: You have a knack for revealing new subjects to us! :)
By: Michael Manning on January 23, 2014
I was going to leave a funny comment, but after seeing that last picture, I knew I couldn't top it. I'm not so sure I would be in that condition if I was riding a horse. Unless it was a lady horse. Of course, of course.
By: Al Penwasser on January 23, 2014
Odd to think that a penis can cause such difficulty. I presume an erect member made for easier handling by the technicians.
By: Tom Cochrun on January 23, 2014

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