In the city of Florence, there is a well-known statue of a pig. It is cast in bronze and water flows from its snout. The beggars of the city all know where the pig is. Children are often in the habit of hanging from the pig to take a drink of water directly from its mouth. The snout of the pig is a shiny polished bronze while the rest of it is green.
A little boy had been out begging one day, but did not have any money for his efforts. He took a drink from the pig’s mouth. Instead of going home, where he knew his mother would scold him, he climbed upon the pig’s back and fell asleep.
He awoke because the pig was running. It had come to life. It ran all over through the city. The pig told the boy that he could only come to life when a child was upon his back. The pig ran past other statues in the city, which were also alive, including Michelangelo’s David. The pig then ran into a gallery full of all manner of wonderful works of art by the masters. Then the pig ran to the church of Santa Croce where many learned men are entombed.
The boy soon woke up. The pig was not awake; it was a statue again. He went home, dreading his return. Once at home, in a filthy mean little place, the mother demanded what money the boy had begged. The boy had not begged any money. The mother was angry and began to shout at him. A neighbor woman came in to see what all the noise was about. She accosted the mother for treating her son so, but the mother said, “He’s my son. I can murder him if I like.” The two women got into a fight and the son ran away.
He ran to the church he had been on the night before. He leaned upon the burial place of Michelangelo and cried and cried. He was there all day. An elderly man had seen him. At the end of the day, the elderly man invited him home with him. The man turned out to be a glove maker along with his wife. The elderly man went and talked to the boy’s mother, and she said it was ok for him to stay. They would turn him into a glove maker as well.
The couple owned a little dog, which had to go outside in a little coat because its fur was shaven so close to the skin. The boy, at first, got along with the dog, but as all boys do, he soon did boy things, which included teasing animals, this the woman did not like. She scolded the boy. One day the boy helped an artist carry his materials. The boy wanted to watch him paint, but it was not time yet. The artist befriended the boy somewhat, and the boy began to learn to sketch.
One evening the boy ran out to visit the metal pig. The dog had followed him, and it was cold. The pig was just a statue and did not come to life when the boy sat upon its back. The boy wanted to get the dog home because he knew the glove maker couple would worry about the dog, but the guards caught him and accused him of stealing the dog. They kept it at the guard shack until the boy could prove whom the dog belonged to. The boy ran home to get the couple, who were upset about the dog. The man went and retrieved the dog, but the woman had had enough. She kicked the boy out of the house.
The little boy was taken in by the artist who befriended him. He grew up to be an artist himself. One of his paintings was of a little boy upon the pig’s back, but the painting hung in the gallery with a piece of black crepe because the artist had just died.
Hans can’t leave death out of a story, can he?
The works of art mentioned in this story are all real, but perhaps the last works of art mentioned as created by the little boy. I couldn’t find the paintings that the boy supposedly painted when he grew up. They may exist, and this story may have been based on a real artist, but I can’t find that information. If you know, please comment.
I’m impressed with Hans’ knowledge of the art world. Florence is home to a heck of a lot of art. Hans mentioned so many famous pieces of sculpture and so many paintings. They’re all real. You can go and see them.
The most important piece of art, the metal pig, is real. It’s called Porcellino, which means “piglet.” It’s in Italy, but there are also copies all over the world, and its nose is polished because people keep rubbing it. The tradition was to rub the pig’s nose for a safe return to Florence. I’m sure children drank out of the pig fountain as well.
Was the pig really alive? Probably not. The ride upon the pig’s back was just a dream. The boy learned something from that dream though. He learned about the art world. He learned how things could be captured on paper and in sculpture. Once he was gifted with a couple who encouraged him just a bit, he was able to practice and learn. When he was then gifted with a mentor who could teach him art, he became an artist. The pig showed him what art could be and what the boy could create. The boy then followed his path to becoming an artist.
If the pig had not shown the boy these things, he might have never been an artist. While it is true that he died young, he was able to create some amazing artwork. It was all inspired by what the pig had shown him.
Remember that you can be that spark in a child’s life. You can show them something that will
I want to go see this metal pig.
What do you think of the family the boy has?
Do fountains hold any significance in your life?