Initially conceived as a 25-foot-high construction, this monument, a sort of cross between an obelisk and a pyramid translated into wood, suddenly shrank to human size and simultaneously sprouted wings. These last not only gave it mobility but also lent an angelic, Christian element to its pagan origins. To commemorate this small miracle, its original Etruscan named, Grotto Forrocco Tusculanus was changed, and it was baptized and christened
As construction progressed, I began to realize that this shape was derived from many important objects I have known all my life. It was the shape of a tower marking the entrance to a harbor in Maine; it was the clapboard top to the firehouse in a small town in Vermont. It was also the tiny electric engine that pushed the great “hot car” at a coke plant in New Haven, and it was the bell buoy off the New England coast that I have sailed by numerous time in the fog.
The drawings show various derivations and reincarnations of Il Risorgimento. Among the first are those which relate to its origin as a buoy and engine, and the "Important Visit" to see the pyramids. Among the last are its “Contemplation of Suicide,” images of responding to calls of distress, and finally those where, in a fit of inflamed egotism, I say it not only as the agent of the Annunciation, but also in heaven with Borromini’s St. Ivo, where it gleefully spawns progeny of its own.
Later during my summer in Rome, the monument made a series of appearances around the city. There was a dawn visit to the Piazza Novona where, with nothing but pigeons as spectators, it confronted a real obelisk. At midday it mounted the steps of the Campidoglio to wistfully contemplate the vacant base of the statue of Marcus Aurelius. It went on to look in on Bramante’s Tempietto, continued up the Gianicolo to pay its respects to Garibaldi, glided through the Piazza del Popolo at dusk, and was awash in the Trevi Fountain by nightfall.
If Il Risorgimento does not soon disappear in an apocalyptic puff of smoke, a final resting spot will be sought. I imagine this will be a rocky outcropping of one of the Alban hills which looks out over a large slice of landscape with Rome in the distance. Here the elements will go to work, peeling off the paint, warping the slats, stripping off the wings. There will be a time perhaps, before vanishing off the face of the earth altogether, when beached and weathered, and the wood become like dried old bones, that its pagan origins may claim it again, and it will be more like a monument than ever before.