The legend of Il Porcellino is that he will bring you good luck if you rub his snout. Placed outside Sydney Hospital he helps raise money as people drop coins in the fountain when rubbing his nose. Zoe Mahony has given Il Porcelino a set of wings as a play on the notion that ‘pigs might fly’ and a symbol of the hope he brings, not only to his visitors but also to the Hospital, the sick and infirmed. A symbol of the possibilities and power of believing in miracles.
The wings have been made using recycled street-banners, oil skin and enormous sequins. The high luster of the banners and sequins mimic the opulence of the 17th Century Baroque period where Il Porcelino was first conceived in Florence. The oilskin is a textile reference to the Australian drize-a-bone and the outback, an enormous source of inspiration to Linda Jackson and Jenny Kee, but particulary a direct reference to the work of Jackson in the 1980’s.
The feathers within each wing are comprised of overlayed fabric circles, referencing the Italian Pucci style of the 1960’s and symbolsing the era the statue was donated to the hospital as well as the nationality of the donor, the Italian Clarissa Torrigiani. The colour pallet has a distinctly 1980’s Australian feel. The large sequins represent the coins people drop into the statue, the proceeds of which go towards hospital… hence his being referred to by staff as the ‘silent volunteer’.
About the Sculptor
Pietro Tacca was an Italian sculptor, who was the chief pupil and follower of Giambologna. Tacca began in a Mannerist style and worked in the Baroque style as he got older. Taking his inspiration from a famous marble copy of a Hellenistic marble boar (Il Cinghiale) in the ducal collection at the Uffizi Palace in Florence, Tacca set himself the task of surpassing it: the result is the Porcellino (1612) in the Mercato Nuovo (New Market), Florence.
About the statue
This statue is a copy of the original made by Pietro Tacca in Florence. It was erected in memory of Dr Thomas Fiaschi and his son Dr Piero Fiaschi by their daughter and sister Clarissa Torrigiani who had married and moved back to Italy.
Thomas studied medicine in his native Florence before emigrating to Australia in 1874. In 1894 he became honorary surgeon to Sydney Hospital. During the Boer War Fiaschi commanded the New South Wales 1st Field Hospital. For conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order. On his return he was honorary surgeon to the governors-general in 1902-09, and in 1911 became principal medical officer of the 2nd Military District with the rank of colonel. In 1909 he was chairman of the board of medical studies at Sydney Hospital, and in 1911 became honorary consulting surgeon. His son Piero, born at Windsor and gained medical qualifications in the United States and England before returning to Sydney in 1907. He served in the medical corps in Egypt, Gallipoli, France and England during World War I, rose to lieutenant-colonel, and was mentioned in dispatches. Piero Fiaschi set up a highly successful practice at 178 Phillip Street as a genito-urinary specialist and an authority on venereal disease. He was clinical assistant at Sydney Hospital in 1936-46. The hint of camoflauge in the wings is a reference by Zoe Mahony to the distinguished military careers of both these men.
In 1968 Clarissa made plans to bring the statue to Sydney to be unveiled outside Sydney Hospital. When she had lived in Australia before marrying and moving back overseas she had been used to her family having important status in Sydney society. However, when she arrived to Sydney Harbour on the Gallileo no one was there to meet her, no member of the Hospital or Sydney City Council, and she was most upset. The only person who did arrive was a young female correspondent from The Sydney Morning Herald who asked her how old she was. Clarissa was furious. She cancelled the unveiling, put Il Porcelino into storage and left in a rage back to Italy never again to return to Australia. It was 5 months before Clarissa relented and allowed the statue to be unveiled on December 18th 1968 draped in the flags of Australia and Italy. Many of the Fiaschi family were present, however Clarissa was notably absent.
Il Porcelino and Sydney Hospital
Il Porcelino is a fond member of the Sydney Hospital community. They call him their ‘silent volunteer’.
The Friends of Sydney Hospital (FOSH) volunteer group always include Il Porcellino in their stalls and special functions, and usually a special garland is made for him to wear. When the Olympic flame was carried down Macquarie Street in 2000, he wore an Olympic Garland and every year on Daffodil Day he wears a daffodil hat or garland, to help in the hospital’s efforts to raise funds for the Cancer Council.
Special Il Porcellino souvenirs can be purchased from the FOSH ‘Little Shop’ on Macquarie Street.
Archive research by Anne-Maree Whitaker
Additional research by Brendan Phelan and Imogen Semmler
We have worked closely with Sydney Hospital in having Il Porcelino dressed for Sydney Statues: Project! and would particularly like to thank Deidre Kennedy for her support and assistance. Each day the wings are put on and taken off the statue, as he sits so close to the ground and the chance of theft overnight is far too great. Thanks also to the members of the security team for assisting with our daily task!
- City of Sydney Council Statue Vertical Files