No, Bagni di Lucca is not preparing for the visit of an ayatollah – remember how those gorgeous classical nudes were covered up (including the Apollo Belvedere!) during the recent visit of an eastern potentate to the Vatican museums.
In this case the scaffolding at present surrounding its war memorial is for a much needed restoration of the statue: Ponte a Serraglio’s homage to the Fallen. The work is sponsored in large part by the Cassa di Risparmio of Lucca which is also contributing towards restoration of the equally fine monument at San Cassiano.
The restoration, which is taking place one hundred years after the greatest massacre Europe has experienced, was sorely needed since moss and lichens had been covering the statue giving the noble figure a somewhat sickly appearance. Moreover, the various parts of the monument were becoming separated from each other.
(The memorial before restoration)
The statue was sculpted by Alberto Cheli in 1923 and is in a markedly neo-classical style with leanings towards fascist grandiloquence. Its material is marble, and the steps to are in pietra Serena.
Alberto Cheli was born in 1888 at Pieve Fosciana in the upper Serchio valley (where he also sculpted a war memorial). Cheli studied under Luccan Francesco Petroni. In 1932 he married Adalgisa Panconi, from whom he had twins, Giorgio and Lio. Among Cheli’s other monuments is one commemorating the poet Virgil in the Italian colony of Rosario Argentina (1930). He died in 1947 in Lucca.
Certainly, the end results of the Ponte a Serraglio monument are beginning to show and a whiter-than-white heroic figure is emerging. It’s a bit too refulgent to my eyes but I’m sure time will give this fine monument some patina back to it.
Incidentally, someone I knew who lived on the opposite side of the river would wake up to a splendid view of the statue’s posterior every day. I’m sure that part of the monument’s anatomy will be nicely cleaned up too.