Marforio, together with Pasquino, Madama Lucrezia, the Abbot Luigi, the Porter (il Facchino) and the Baboon (il Babuino), is one of the famous “talking statues of Rome”, a number of statues that were used from the 16th century onwards to vent criticism of the contemporary popes and politicians. The statue is now on display in the Capitoline Museums.
Marforio‘s statue is quite an imposing one and was found in that part of Augustus’ Forum that was called Martis Forum during the Middle Ages. The name Marforio is therefore also thought to derive from the place where it was found.
It is thought to date back to the first century AD and after it was found it was placed near the Mamertine Prison.
In 1588 Pope Sixtus V decided first to move the statue to the Piazza San Marco, but later it was moved to the Piazza del Campidoglio, in order to embellish a fountain made by Giacomo della Porta.
In the middle of the 16th century Marforio was moved again, to the courtyard of the Palazzo Nuovo, where it still stands in the exedra which was designed by Filippo Barigioni.
Marforio is shown lying on his side in a niche, with a giant octopus at the foot of his pedestal. Its tentacles pour water in the travertine basin below. The statue probably depicts Ocean, although other interpretations, including the river Tiber, have also been given.
Part of the face, the right foot and the left hand holding the shell are all part of a restoration in the year 1594.