La Fontana delle Scimmie.*

*warning blog post contains references to Florence (again)


This is the Museo delle Porcellane di Boboli, an exquisitely faded small palazzo in the gardens of the Pitti Palace. It has a superb collection of porcelain and chinaware and delicious views from the windows looking south over a quintessential Tuscan landscape (see below).

It also has the Fontana delle Scimmie (Fountain of the Monkeys) in the garden; the Casino del Cavaliere.

Personally, I think these stiff limbed simians are gruesome but then, I find monkeys quite frightening and disturbing anyway, they are too human for my taste. I always wonder what’s going behind those worried brown eyes.

And so, apparently, does the artist Walton Ford.


His exquisite paintings frequently depict monkeys doing rather unpleasant things (often to parrots). I believe this is based upon a disturbing childhood experience that happened either to him or his mother. I’m not sure which.

I was moved to try and draw the fountain with extremely limited success.

I quickly gave up and resorted to photography; above and below are two pages from my Florence sketch book.

I’d also been looking at the monkeys in La Specola; that wonderful pavilion of taxidermy and morbid wax works.

I mean, in God’s good name, why? These are really disturbing and, if I think that, then they REALLY are. Here’s another for good measure.

Of course I had to make a sculpture about them, but I’m about as good at modelling monkeys as I am at drawing them so I had to use allusion (or illusion).

I made small elements that had some simian features. And, also, apparently some a giraffe (do not ask why).

I must have still been thinking about the southern magnolia tree with its cheeky protruding scarlet tongues.  I wrote about in November 2015 (that long ago already!).

The elements become more complex as they spiral down into an increasing frenzy of consumption.

This piece seemed to have a need to be decorated in an ornate manner – the colours reminded me in retrospect of a particular caterpillar that I loved as a child; that of the Knotgrass Moth.

I remember always finding these snazzy larvae on various bits of waste land near my grandmother’s home. It’s only now that I realise how much my entomological past informs my present practice.

I ended up working on this piece on and off for nearly eighteen months. I have only just finished it and finally assembled it at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop. Here it is in the big studio while still in bisque state with my slugs in the background.

And in further stages of development.

Before final completion (not a good pic but I will add better ones soon.)

I usually hate my work when it’s finished, but I’m quite fond of this one. Perhaps it’s a case of better late than never.




About pennimania

Artist, entomologist, grumbler.
This entry was posted in Boboli Personality, ceramics, Pleionexia and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to La Fontana delle Scimmie.*

  1. julia cowie says:

    wow, amazing and distinctly disturbing.

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