02 August 2021 07:20
On one side of Villa Romeo, a monumental Art Nouveau building which now houses a private clinic, it is possible to admire two splendid callipygian caryatids. These are two female statues, which have a truly unique history – it should be said – behind them. It seems difficult that a house could cause scandal, yet when in 1904 the architect Giuseppe Sommaruga inaugurated the building commissioned from him by the wealthy engineer Ermenegildo Castiglioni in the center of Corso Venezia 47, he found himself at the center of harsh criticism.
His attempt to import the Art Nouveau style, which was going wild in Europe, also to Milan, seemed too brash to the traditionalists: unheard of those porthole windows and too modern the basement rocks of the house. But that contrast between the smooth plaster surfaces of the walls and the rustic ashlar was absolutely desired, to create tension and contrast between the materials and the richness of the decorations and the squares surrounding the openings. What aroused the most controversy, however, was quite another: the two large female statues in marble, sculpted by Ernesto Bazzaro, placed above the door and which, seen from below, seemed to show their perfect rear. The Milanese renamed the building “Cà di ciapp”, the “house of the buttocks”.
It was too much. Sommaruga was forced to remove the statues and replace them with harmless floral decorations which, however, did not have the plasticity of the statues. The architect, however, did not destroy the two nudes but used them a few years later for another house he built, Villa Romeo-Faccanoni in fact. Today the two statues are still there, far from the center, and by now they no longer scandalize anyone.
From the guide “Unusual and secret Milan” by Massimo Polidoro, published by Jonglez (www.edizionijonglez.com), available in all Italian bookstores and online stores